Ruminations on responsiveness: are you delivering fast enough?

Years ago, when contacting a customer service team, you’d be just as likely to put pen to paper as you would to pick up the phone. I vividly remember plenty of fax and telex communications in my first customer service role. Email and toll free numbers dramatically changed the landscape, and with it, expectations of how quickly the request or issue would be acknowledged. But the lightning speed expectations of customers today is being driven by a number of factors.

Of course, technology is a key driver in expectation setting. When we can communicate with friends & family on the move via mobile devices, our expectation of businesses is no different. If I send a text to my friend regarding dinner this evening, I fully expect them to reply very quickly. Likewise, if I contact an online supplier to chase up progress on my order, I am not prepared to wait till the next day for an update.

Matters are further complicated by the advancement in online tool that allow live or almost real-time conversations to take place with businesses. At Workshare, we’re delighted with the success of a recently introduced tool, Intercom, where not just support, but our product and design teams are able to chat with customers about their questions, problems and experiences. But this creates a new challenge that we need to be always available to answer every question.

The last major factor that figures in this equation is demographics. Millenials (those born toward the end of the 20th century and beyond) are brand agnostic, tech savvy with high expectations of businesses they use. Speed of response is very important to this generation if they are to build trust with a business.

The legacy response times and opaque processes are no longer applicable. For everyone providing service, high levels of accuracy, speed and personalisation mean an evolution of systems, process and most of all training. It’s OK to acknowledge that your existing model is no longer fit for purpose (I’m currently in the process of rolling out “support 2.0” at Workshare), but where to start?

My advice is to strip out all the complexity you’ve built up over the years, and focus on 1 or 2 core responsibilities to the customer. For Workshare, this means delivering extremely accurate technical solutions and ensuring that we keep customers updated regularly whilst troubleshooting occurs. With a more simplistic view, it becomes easier to assess process development, new tools or systems and training needs to deliver the change you wish to make.

The old KPIs & SLAs on responsiveness need to be tightened up. I’ve set a series of baseline goals, which over the coming months shift to a higher aspirational level. This step approach will take Workshare to top quartile performance levels in bite-sized chunks. Buy-in on a transition plan will ensure you have the time to achieve results, and helps build the positive message to share with customers.

I’d love to hear your experience in evolving your service model, so feel free to drop me a line or look me up on LinkedIn:


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