Is your first support response time good enough?

Peter Bryant

Oct 2016 ⋅ 2 min read

When providing live chat or email support, you should think about how quickly you aim to reply to your customers.

It may seem blindingly obvious to aim to provide the fastest support response possible no matter what the situation, but this isn't necessarily the case...

At RotaCloud, we are proud to have achieved a median first response time of just four minutes over the last 90 days. We've hired a dedicated support rep (me!) to ensure our customers are getting the immediate attention they need. That's because our customers really do need immediate attention.

Why? Because we provide critical software to businesses.

The humble rota is actually vital to the day-to-day running of countless businesses - businesses that opted for our software to make their working lives easier, not more complicated.

If we aren't providing fast support, businesses may find themselves with missing staff, inaccurate payrolls, disputes over shifts and leave, and all manner of other scheduling issues.

However, if your product is not critical to individuals or businesses, it isn't necessary for you to provide blazing-fast responses.

You have the freedom to put response time lower on the priority list than we do and focus more on the things your customers care about.

As a support rep, you may have more responsibilities than just replying to support tickets. They could include:

  • Maintaining and updating the knowledge base
  • Writing feature update guides or blog posts
  • Creating video guides
  • Following up on old conversations
  • Speaking to developers or other members of the team to discuss specific software issues

Any of those things may be more important to your customers than fast-as-possible replies, so consider prioritising them.

Deciding what to prioritise can be difficult, but data can help you. You could survey your customers periodically to ask them what's most important to them in terms of support (e.g. speed of response, quality/helpfulness of response, quality of knowledge base, follow-ups). Use those results to prioritise, and after a few weeks you could ask your customers how satisfied they were with each of those aspects.

Running those surveys periodically should give you a good indication of what your customers are asking for.

You might find that your customers would be happy to wait for a response if it means it's more helpful.

Instead of being tempted to reply quickly with a generic 'Hi, we're not sure what the issue is - let me investigate...' to keep your response time down, it might actually be in your interest to step back and investigate before presenting the customer with a detailed answer that resolves their problem

Of course, it all depends on the types of queries you have to deal with - every business and every query are different.

Response times also depend on the communication channels you offer customers. Live chat and phone support options should provide customers with near-instant responses, while email support can get away with being a little more sluggish.

So is your first response time good enough? The answer is probably 'yes', actually - unless your customers have told you otherwise!

It's easy to worry about helping people as quickly as possible, but sometimes other support tasks may take precedence.

Don't panic if you can't get to support tickets instantly.

don't panic badge

Image credit: Kreg Steppe - Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0

What are your support priorities, and are they working for you? Post your thoughts in the comments!