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  • Writer's pictureTammy McKenzie

10 Reasons for Delayed Response Times in Support (and Tips on How to Resolve Them)

The speed at which a company responds to customer inquiries can greatly impact the quality of customer service interaction. Research has shown that faster response times lead to higher customer satisfaction, with 77% of customers stating that valuing their time is the most important factor in good online customer service. Customer expectations play a significant role in their overall experience, and if a company is able to exceed these expectations by responding quickly, it reflects positively on both customer service and the company as a whole. To respond to customers more quickly, you can follow these three steps:

1. Determine your goals for customer response time.

  • Formulate a clear goal for email response time

Example: "Every paying customer who emails during business hours should receive a helpful and accurate response within 4 hours" This goal is more effective than simply "reducing response time" because it considers the overall customer experience, rather than just the speed of the response

  • Automated "We've received your email" replies

  • Quality rubric to ensure helpful and accurate responses

2. Identify areas where you can improve the speed of your response.

  • The first response time to a customer request is particularly important, as it can impact the customer's overall satisfaction and confidence in your company

  • A fast and helpful first response can create a positive impression and set the tone for the rest of the conversation

  • Customers are more understanding of longer wait times if they have already received responsive and helpful service earlier in the conversation

3. Create and implement a plan to address these areas and achieve your desired response time.

  • Set a clear quality standard for customer service interactions

  • Identify points of delay in the customer response process

  • Look at closed conversations and note the time between receipt and first response

  • Consider speaking to team members or using personal experience to identify causes of delay

  • Address common causes of delay: Lack of information or resources, difficult or complex issues, too many simultaneous conversations


Reason #1: Conversations are being missed in a busy queue.

  • Review your triage procedures and assign a team member to identify opportunities for a prompt initial response.

  • Examine the tools your help desk has available to sort and prioritize your queues.

  • Use workflows and tags to automatically flag conversations that are older, and move them into a separate view.

Reason #2: Conversations require specific expertise that isn't always available.

  • Train others to handle common questions when possible.

  • Develop a helpful initial response that acknowledges the customer, explains any potential delays, and requests any additional necessary information in the meantime.

  • Consider assigning one of your team members to a dedicated role for handling these tickets. This approach can provide opportunities for growth within the team and establish a clear point of responsibility for addressing escalated issues.

Reason #3: The team avoids picking up the most complex cases ("cherry picking" easier cases).

  • Review your individual performance metrics to ensure that handling a complex, slow-to-resolve conversation does not negatively impact your performance. This is important, most commonly agents cherry-pick because they're incentivized in their KPI's not to. Check out: How to Avoid Cherry Picking by Your Support Agents

  • Practice troubleshooting skills as a team to build confidence in addressing these cases.

  • Document any complex issues that are resolved in your internal knowledge base and share that information with the team.

Reason #4: Conversations are handled by another team that is slow to respond.

  • Work with the other team to understand their goals and resources.

  • Create a consistent plan for giving the customer a good first response, and then handing them over.

  • Consider a system for following up on open conversations.

Reason #5: Frontline team members don't have the authority to take the necessary actions (e.g., can't give refunds or change plans).

  • Create a report on the negative impact that a lack of authority has on your team's responsiveness, as a way to advocate for changing internal policies.

  • Propose working with management to develop safe guidelines for frontline staff to use, while allowing them the flexibility to assist customers efficiently.

  • Ultimately if you're unable to give specific agents the internal permissions to resolve certain ticket types, you need to use skill-based routing to get these tickets off their plate and to someone can resolve them.

Reason #6: The internal tools the team rely on are slow, inaccessible, or poorly designed.

  • Measure how much time is spent trying to use those tools, and tie it to your response times and customer satisfaction rates, and cost per ticket. That will help build a business case to invest in improvements.

  • Try having internal engineers handle some of those cases so they can really feel the impact.

  • Give your internal engineers a prioritized list of improvements they could make and the impact you expect to see on customers.

Reason #7: The customers don't provide the necessary details to answer their questions properly.

  • Examine your support contact points: Is it possible to request relevant information upfront? Can you build integrations to bring in contextual data to your help desk?

  • Assign your triage team the responsibility of identifying unclear questions and sending a quick clarifying question, rather than waiting until later.

Reason #8: There are not enough staff members to handle the volume.

  • Review your performance reports to identify potential problem areas, such as slow response times on Mondays due to weekend backlogs.

  • Compare your available support resources with incoming support requests to identify any mismatches and adjust staffing accordingly.

  • Create a case for hiring additional staff by estimating the impact on response times and customer satisfaction rates.

Reason #9: The support agent lacks the necessary knowledge or confidence to resolve an issue.

  • Use @mentions or similar features to loop people in on tricky questions so they can learn without being responsible for answering.

  • Run group learning sessions where you all answer the same question and learn from each other's answers.

  • Practice general troubleshooting techniques as a way to make progress on questions that don't have an immediate solution.

  • Build a checklist for support answers so they can check they have covered what is needed.

  • Ensure your team knows that mistakes are recoverable and that you will back them up.

Reason #10: It just isn't clear what the customer is asking.

  • More experienced agents may be able to share what context clues they use to decipher confusing questions. See a go-to person or encourage people to post these support interactions in internal channels.

  • Develop your team's analytical reading skills.

  • Create a generic empathetic macro that agents can use when they don't understand a support request. It should apologize to the user but also ask specific follow-up questions to help determine what their experience is.


To improve response times, consider both the issues that take the most time to resolve and the issues that are easiest for your team to address. If the support team can demonstrate that they are already reducing response times through internal changes, they may be in a better position to request assistance from other teams for larger projects.

Keep in mind that response times may be more critical for certain customers or in specific situations, such as:

  • Conversations that are visible on social media.

  • Outages or other crises.

  • Customers who are trialing your product and seeking answers.

  • VIP or high-value customers.

In other cases, faster response times may not necessarily improve the overall customer experience. In these situations, it may be more effective to focus on other areas.

Another option to consider for reducing response times is offering better self-service options, such as a convenient knowledge base that allows customers to solve their own problems without needing to contact support.


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