How Good Is Your Customer Service?
2. What is the optimum average speed of answer?
Answer: c) 80 percent of calls within 30 to 40 seconds
This is sort of a trick question, in that it’s fairly impossible to determine an average speed of answer (ASA) across all verticals and even all customer segments. Factors that affect the optimum speed of answer include business category, competition levels, customer ranking and more. For example, says Lieber, most B-to-B direct marketers cannot afford to let callers be put on hold; usually, B-to-B firms’ customer service centers answer all calls within four rings. He notes this is true in other service-critical industries, such as stock brokerage.
Of course, if all companies could meet this often-reported ASA, abandon rates probably would drop and customer satisfaction levels improve.
Lieber believes this baseline metric was developed decades ago, after the Pareto Principle; in this case, 80 percent of your calls are assumed to come from 20 percent of your customers. So, companies focused on meeting a standard level of service for just 80 percent of calls. The main problem with this approach is that you can’t tell which 80 percent to service at any given point; one of the callers in the 20 percent group getting below-average service could be your best customer.
Instead of attaching your ASA benchmark to only a portion of your calls, a more effective method is to adopt a trilevel system to manage wait times, says Lieber. For example, you could set ASA goals as follows:
• 80 percent of calls in X seconds;
• 99 percent of calls in X seconds; and
• 100 percent of calls in X seconds.
This system lets you determine how well you will handle all your service calls and see where you can make improvements without ignoring a significant percentage of callers. It also can help you catch those rare calls, Lieber explains, where someone might sit on hold for five to eight minutes.