Quality vs Quantity: Is a High First Reply Time Always a Bad Thing?

Companies everywhere treat this metric as the holy grail of KPI’s when it comes to increasing customer satisfaction (CSAT). Although, this begs the question, are we too focussed on the satisfaction of the customer? If so at what cost?
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If you’re like me and you struggle to remember your family’s birthdays, then I’m sure the endless list of metrics to measure service quality is a bit overwhelming. However, one that is almost impossible to avoid is First Reply Time (FRT). What is FRT? It basically measures how long it takes an agent to get back to a customer’s first inquiry.

First Reply Time = total number of tickets / total time until an agent takes on a case

Companies everywhere treat this metric as the holy grail of KPI’s when it comes to increasing customer satisfaction (CSAT). It seems simple enough, right? Keep your First Reply Time rate down. Meaning you provide fast service which equals happy customers and a high CSAT. Although, this begs the question, are we too focussed on the satisfaction of the customer? If so at what cost?

A study done by the Harvard Business Review delves into Customer Service organizations’ obsession with CSAT scores. Here are some interesting statistics:

80% of customer service organizations use customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores as the primary metric for gauging the customer’s experience

20% of the “satisfied” customers in our [HBR] study said they intended to leave the company in question

Many companies go to extreme measures to ensure that their CSAT levels are high. One of these measures is providing a response as fast as possible to your customers.

With this in mind, we put together three reasons why a faster response doesn’t always mean better service:

Fast service might not equal quality service

The fact that we now live in a society where we are expected to be online all the time has lead to an increasingly impatient customer base (my self included). This expectation has increased pressures for CS teams to respond to customer inquiries as fast as possible.

42% of customers complaining on social media expect a 60-minute or less response time

But where is the trade-off? As an agent’s number of inquiries increases, their FRT must increase. This is to ensure that they are still delivering the standard of quality established by the company. It’s all well and good to have a low First Reply Time. However, what this doesn’t tell you is whether your inquiry was answered in the correct tone or perhaps if it gave accurate product information.

Rather than falling into the trap of following vanity metrics, wouldn’t it be better to have a slightly higher First Reply Time but provide a service that is of high quality?

Omnichannel presence can overstretch your resources

Not only are customer support teams expected to be present all the time, but there is an expectation that you provide an omnichannel resolution. What do I mean by this? It means that your support is cohesive across a number of channels including: phone, chat, social media, email.

This increasing pressure of being omnichannel can often lead to companies overstretching their resources to ensure their customers can contact them on multiple channels. As your team grows, so too does the number of tickets. Whilst it is great to offer your customers multi-channel support, it will ultimately affect the speed at which you can respond across the board. Meaning a higher First Reply Time.

As an example, it has almost become an industry standard now to have a chat function on your website, that provides quick, direct responses to your customers’ queries. Whilst this may be an effective tool, it requires a lot of resources and a very low FRT.

The average FRT benchmark for a live chat in all industries is 1 minute and 36 second

For large companies, this is completely achievable, but for those that are fighting the battle of scaling, it may be worthwhile to focus on fewer channels to ensure you are providing a higher quality of service rather than a higher quantity of service. If the chat function isn’t working for your team, then don’t let your e-mail service suffer. Use a realistic amount of channels that will allow you to achieve the quality of service you want. If this means a higher FRT, then so be it. At least you’re providing a high level of support to your customers.

Whatever happened to ‘First in First out’

The bread and butter of answering tickets, ‘first in first out’. In an ideal world, all of our tickets would be the first touch. But let’s be honest, you’ve got tickets piled up higher than last week’s laundry.

Here lies the dilemma, “Do I answer my new tickets, maintaining my low FRT (and hopefully my CSAT), or do I dig deep and answer my old tickets that slipped through the cracks, thereby sacrificing my FRT, but salvaging already angry customers?

Whilst no one would care to admit it, it is not an uncommon occurrence for an agent to cut their losses and give priority to a new ticket over an unanswered cancellation alert. But answering these tickets is valuable to your customer retention. It may even fix your median FRT in the process! So don’t just focus on new tickets to improve your FRT, spread the love and use your time amongst all tickets to ensure a happy average.

While your customers care about speedy support, and it is important in its own right, there are many other factors that even a low FRT can not compensate. Ticketless’ Dōjō makes your data meaningful, helping you focus on what really matters, so you can provide quality service every time.

Check out Dōjō by Ticketless, the performance management tool in Zendesk, to start implementing these best practices today!