Extra Time Does Not Always Make Customers Happier

In our culture, we show someone we care by giving our time — that’s one reason homemade cookies tend to be appreciated more than a box of store-bought ones. Unsurprisingly, this philosophy has spilled over into customer service. Many companies are willing to give customers any amount of time necessary in the hope of increased customer satisfaction.

But does it really work? And is all that time necessary?

We don’t think so: Customer Service Myth #4: Customers are happier when given extra time.

Time Spent Doesn’t Translate to Customer Happiness

Remember that not all time is equal. Focusing in on time quantity at the expense of quality benefits no one, and it’s a pattern we see all too frequently with new clients. Longer call times may mean that your company is spending much more on payroll for lower customer satisfaction.

In our experience, we’ve found that 10 to 15 percent of calls run more than twice as long as the average. Plus, these calls make up a whopping 25 to 30 percent of all time spent with callers. The shocking thing is that, for the most part, these lengthy calls were not paired with justifiably complex problems.

To make matters worse, these long calls were much more likely to have a negative impact on customer satisfaction scores than their shorter counterparts.

The reason for this? Keeping your customers on the line longer than necessary effectively wastes their time. Are you happy when your time is wasted? Neither are your customers, and that’s what we see reflected in satisfaction scores.

Favor Quality Over Quantity

Switching gears is easier said than done. However, the first step is to determine the specific reasons that customers call. Next, divide these circumstances into two groups and evaluate accordingly:

  • Short calls. Questions about accounts, billing, service, or product features should be simple for your agents to complete in just a few minutes.
  • Long calls. These cover complex issues in which a greater amount of time is necessary, such as troubleshooting network connectivity problems or identifying an infrequent bug on the customer’s end.

From there, create a standard call time for each group and make sure your agents don’t deviate much from it during their longest calls. However, when an agent goes over time, evaluate the call itself to determine if the problem was with the client or one caused by agent inefficiency. Focusing too much on limiting time can be just as detrimental to customer service quality as promoting longer call length. You don’t want your agents to be too abrupt or to sacrifice thoroughness for shorter call time.

Once that’s been determined, we recommend making the following additions to your process:

  • Better triage. Give your agents the knowledge and tools to diagnose a caller’s problem quickly and effectively. The reason for a call (and which department can best handle it) should be identified within its first 30 seconds.
  • Clear call time expectations. Include average call times and policies in learning materials for employees to refer back to. Make sure these expectations are explicit and encourage your agents to ask for more information when needed.
  • Efficiency coaching. Identify agents who chronically let calls go long. Determine ways for individuals to improve their efficiency, and train them with those improvements in mind.

However, implementing such a system can be tough, which is where SYKES comes in. With over three decades of successful customer engagement experience, we’re here to help your business boost both efficiency and customer satisfaction.