7 July 2020

4 Steps To Improve Average Response Time for Live Chat in Customer Service


Throughout the years, we have learned that average response times become more and more important in customer service. As a way to excel in the eyes of your customers, rocket speed response times drastically improve their experience with your company.

As a multilingual contact center operating in a multitude of different industries, we have tried many different approaches and learned to know what works. Today we are going to share our 4 steps to improve average response time in customer service teams.

This article will be highly valuable to you if you are:

- Working in or with a customer service team and want to improve your knowledge.
- In a management role in a contact center and want to improve the results of your team.
- Have your customer service outsourced and want to learn how to improve the average response time.
- Willing to learn more about the contact center industry or what our strategies are.

​We're going to discuss 4 steps today, which are the following:
 
- Gather data to see how you can improve your average response time.
- Keep creating templates for every situation that could eventually arise.
- Focused quality & productivity monitoring for meaningful 1-to-1 meetings.
- Create easy to understand reports to engage and motivate your team.
 
Now, without further ado, let's dive into our 4 steps to improve the average response time of your customer service!
 

Gather data to see how you can improve your average response time

gather data to improve average response time in customer service
The best way to start would be to calculate your desired result. However, before you can do anything about anything in the contact center industry, you need to gather data. The target could end up to be 90 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 seconds or in our case - we have set the target at 20 seconds.
 
Because today we're talking about average response times, we want to start by gathering data per agent in an ordered list. We need to gather the per agent first, because we do not necessarily want to take the results of the lowest performer into the calculation of your target.
 
To start with the calculation, the two numbers you need to gather are the following:
 
- Average response time per agent 
- Amount of interactions per agent

You can make a very simple report using the data in your reporting tools, such as the following:

Obviously, these are not real names, but the numbers are real. Today, we are using data for a live chat, but you can do the same exercise for an email or any other ticket-based campaign. 

In this report, we can see that the average of the team is 24. However, if you look further up the line, you will see that the Alex (the fastest) has an Average Response Time of 19 seconds and the Michael (the slowest) 34 seconds, while the sample size is roughly the same. 

When we calculate our desired result, we do not want to use the results of Michael and Nicole. Instead, we need to work with them to ensure they get closer to the results of Alex - about which we will speak in the next step. Take a look at the results with Nicole and Michael excluded:
average response time report
Here we can see, that the average response time of the faster half of the team is 20 seconds per interaction. To start an improvement campaign off, we would not recommend to directly set the target at the lowest point (19 in our case) as that might result in demotivating your team members. Instead, set the target at 22 and work down from there.

Now we have our target selected, it's time to improve the results of your team even more by implementing, (re-)structuring and using templates.
 

Keep creating templates for every situation that could arise

creating templates to improve average response time for customer service
While templates might sound robotic and not customer-oriented at all, that does not have to be the case. Of course, when executed badly, it could hurt customer experience. Luckily for you, you will be sure not to make the mistakes we already made for you, as long as you follow our checklist.

​First, it's important to make an inventory by answering the following questions:
- Do you already have any templates available?
- For how many and which situations?
- Do you have them ready in every used language?
- Where are the templates stored?
- Are the templates available to all team members?
- Do all team members know how to use the templates?
- Do all team members use the templates?
 
When you've answered all of the questions above, it might have already given you an idea where we are going now.
 
Whatever your answers are, it's important that you follow the following steps in order to get your templates up and done before you miss your deadline.
 

List all common situations

In a combined effort with your team, make a list of all common situations. You can do this in any platform, such as Excel where we've made the following list:

email template items

Once we started drafting the list with common situations, more and more kept popping up. Where we had issues to find the first 10, the 90 that followed didn't take nearly as much time. When you have a (nearly) complete list of common situations, it's time to go to the next step and create your templates.
 

Create your templates to improve average response time

When you already had some templates ready, you just need to create the ones that didn't exist before. The most effective way to create your email templates depends on the CRM or other contact center platform you are currently using. In most cases, one of the following should work out:

Search for "old" emails in your mailbox
If your software allows it, the best would be to use the filtering options in the software or platform you are using. In our case, we could search for "free tickets" to find messages sent to customers that claimed the free tickets they had earned. You can repeat the process for all common situations in your situation and you will save yourself and your team a lot of writing.

Gather sent emails as of now
When for one reason or another, the previous step doesn't work for you, or you have one or two items left, there is something else you can do to save you and your team loads of time. Chances are, your customer service team is writing at the time you're reading this, so why not ask them to send you a copy of the email and chats they send? 

Start over and write everything from scratch
Even though this is the most time-consuming one of the three options today, it might actually be the best. By doing everything over again, you're sure the information is up to date and 100% according to your liking. You could of course ask one of your team members to help you out and get this finished in no time.

When your templates are finally created and ready to be used, it's time to implement them in your software. 99% of all suppliers of contact center software offer the function to implement templates in an orderly manner. Some of them even offer you the option to automate filling in the templates. That means, you can let the software automatically fill in the name or order numbers to personalize the emails without costing you any time.

Always make sure the templates are ordered nicely (eventually put them into folders to make them easier to navigate through) and inform your team thoroughly to ensure everyone starts using the templates and you can start working on your average response times.
 

Focused quality & productivity monitoring for meaningful 1-to-1 meetings

quality productivity monitoring for better average response time in customer service
At this stage, you know what your target in terms of average response time is for your customer service team, what their current performance, you have created the templates, informed and trained your team on using the templates. Unfortunately, it's not that easy.

Before, we saw that Michael and Nicole from our example were a little underperforming. At Euroccor, we always do everything we can to succeed with all of our people, and focused monitoring and meaningful coaching moments are a key to succeed in that matter.

By having a dedicated person doing daily quality and productivity monitoring in your team, you can gain incredible insights in the why's of performance. Why is Alex his response time 19 seconds and the one of Michael 34? Without quality monitoring, you will never obtain the answer.

In our case, it turned out that Alex was using templates and Michael wasn't sure how to properly use the templates, but did a great job on custom emails either way.

Spending a few hours to teach someone how to efficiently use templates might seem like a big investment, but once the average response time improves to numbers like Alex his 19 seconds, you quickly earn back your invested time.

Finally, it's important to have close contact with your team about the performance and the obstacles they might be facing. Most customer service agents are quite busy at their job and might not naturally take the time to inform you about any obstacles that might block them and your team from achieving better results. 
 

Create easy to understand reports to engage and motivate your team


Generally speaking, everybody wants to get better at what they do - it's what gives us a fulfilled feeling. Unfortunately, we often come across customer service departments or contact centers where team members are not properly informed about their results.

Key in achieving better results than before is knowing what your "before" results were. By sharing easy-to-digest reporting with your team members, you give them insight in their own results based on which you can also coach them. More often than not, team members will even organize competitions for the best result between themselves.

These reports don't have to include a lot of data - just the basics are usually enough. If your team members have a target for quality and average response time, share a report with their name, quality result and average response time - nothing more. It's important to keep these reports as simple as possible, so that the focus is directed at the most important numbers only.
 

Conclusion

The post of today was a little longer than usual, because we feel that average response time is becoming a more important metric every day and wanted to share our experience with our readers.

In short, we discussed that in order to improve the average response time, you need to follow the following four steps:

- Gather data to see how you can improve your average response time.
- Keep creating templates for every situation that could eventually arise.
- Focused quality & productivity monitoring for meaningful 1-to-1 meetings.
- Create easy to understand reports to engage and motivate your team.

We hope that today's post about improving the average response time in your customer service department or contact center was a valuable resource to you.

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