Tell them when (Support Desk, Customer Service)

My first support desk tip is to always tell your customer when you will get back to them. I know, that sounds impossible. How can I know how long it will take if I haven’t even looked that the problem yet? How can I tell them when the 2nd level support or worse a vendor will get back to me?

Customer Viewpoint

The customer has even less of an idea that you do about how long this issue will take. This is (hopefully) the first and (hopefully) the last time they will ever encounter this issue. You do this sort of thing all day long. You might even have access to information on how long this type of issue might take. If they don’t know when they are going to be contacted next then every minute of every day they are wondering if they should call you. Maybe they should just call to make sure it didn’t get lost in all the other issues. I have personally contacted support desks to only find out they had lost the issue or no one was working on it because someone left the company.

You don’t have to tell them when the issue will be solved. You just need to tell them when you will have an update for them. The update could be as little as “I haven’t heard from the 2nd level support”. Although, in that case I would suggest you follow up with: “I checked with them and they are still working on it. We will provide an update by…”

Benefits to the customer:

  • Reduced stress for your customers: Once they know you will get back to them at a certain time they can put it on their calendar and move on.

Benefits to the support desk:

  • Reduces phone calls or emails: The customer will know not to contact you until the next update.
  • Fewer lost issues: Now that there is a set time to respond to a customer it’s a lot easier to know when you need to take actions on existing issues.
  • Higher satisfaction scores: If you reduce their stress by setting expectations they will feel better about your organization and rate you higher.

Tips for implementing this suggestion

  • Tell them when on every communication: Consistency is reliability. Once you begin this if you leave off an update time you can expect an immediate request for one. Make it part of your process.
  • Make meeting the deadlines your top priority: You loose all the benefits of this suggestion if you don’t actually update them by the suggested date and time.
  • Implement some standard text: This will allow for a consistent message and reduce confusion.
  • Use an actual time: People will get antsy if you tell them “end of day”. Is that 5PM pr midnight? It’s better for everyone if you have an exact time.
  • Be early: It is impossible to send out a communication on time. Expect to send it out early.
  • Don’t wait if something comes up: If you get an update send it out immediately as usual. If they feel you are holding information until the next update they will be tempted to call and check up on it reducing the value of this suggestion.

Suggested text

“We will provide an update by 5 PM December 7, 2008”.

Short and to the point

I would really appreciate your feedback on this suggestion. I would also like to have feedback on formatting or organization suggestions if you see any. Let’s build this world up together.