How to get back to customers faster than ever

Over the last year and a half, the Freshdesk blog has been a host to a series of interviews called ‘The Secret Sauce to Customer Happiness’. Featuring about 45 companies which count startups, big and small and medium businesses in their number, the interview is an attempt to figure out what makes these support reps, and by extension, the businesses, tick.

One thing we’ve spent a lot of time picking their brains about is what they think is the single most important metric in support.

And a majority of support managers agree with us when they say that it’s about how fast they respond that makes or breaks their relationship with customers.

As Lo Marino put it, “You can compose the best and most thoughtful response in the world, but if it takes a week to get to the customer, they’ve already lost interest so that’s not great either.”

So, the idea is to make sure that all your processes are geared towards not just solving the problem but also doing it in a speedy manner. Here’s how you can do that in Freshdesk:

Set up SLAs to bring accountability for response times

One of the simplest ways to get your agents to respond to customers quicker is to set up an SLA for tickets. Since most customers prefer getting a quick first reply even if there isn’t an accurate answer, you can go a little lean on the resolution time, and focus on enforcing a shorter time for initial responses.

What SLAs have to do with speedy responses

Don’t follow a one-size-fits all approach though: while customers emailing you might consider a response in one hour great, that might seem like an eternity for for users reaching out to you via Twitter. You will have to tune your SLAs based on the source your tickets are coming from, and other factors than just depend on the original priority of the tickets.

It also pays to turn on reminder notifications about impending deadlines for your agents, so they get nudged gently about complying to respond times even if they’re knee deep in another problem.

Setting up SLAs using Freshdesk is pretty darn easy: go to Admin > SLA Policies and tune your default policy based on ticket priorities. These service level agreements can be applied just for business hours so when your agents leave office, the time bomb doesn’t keep ticking endlessly. We also recently added the ability for agents to get reminders about response due tickets: our emails can be set to fly from 8 hours ahead to 30 minutes before a ticket needs a response.

Smarten your workflow

If your product has lots of features or your business provides tons of services, you probably have specialized agents trained in each of those offerings. People who are field experts and, therefore, the best people to answer questions pertinent to that area.

So, it makes some sense that you make sure they automatically get all the tickets that fall into their areas of expertise, instead of letting the ticket do the rounds. You can do this in two ways: one, you could hire someone whose sole job is to just read through tickets and assign them to the most qualified agent. Or you could automate the whole process by having your helpdesk assign tickets based on certain keywords in the ticket.

By automating parts of your support process that don’t directly affect the customer – like ticket dispatch -, you make your support agents more efficient and ensure faster responses.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With Freshdesk, you can save a series of repetitive actions as a scenario automation to be deployed at will, save answers to frequently asked questions as canned responses, automatically send reminders to customers when they fail to answer queries and more.

Set up alerts on the go for agents

It’s your most experience support rep’s birthday and the whole team’s stepped out for a quick break to celebrate.

It’s a quick in-and-out trip, half hour tops, except… except a high priority issue rolls in just as they step out the door. Your oblivious agents carry on celebrating, unaware that the helpdesk is currently blowing up with support queries and angry customers, until your marketing team notices that some of the customers have taken it to Twitter. A quick phone call later, they rush to their desks, just to spend the rest of the day putting out an issue that would have been a piece of cake if they’d been on deck.

Now, reimagine that whole scenario except they’re equipped to deal with issues on the go with a smartphone. Your agents wouldn’t have had to rush from the cafe to handle the issue. They could have dealt with it, right from their phones, between cookies and stayed for the scones.

The wonders a smartphone can do when you're supporting on the go

With everyone owning at least one smartphone these days, giving your agents a quick way to track incoming tickets on their devices could be the solution to responding in time – at least for critical issues, when they’re away from their desk. With a mobile app that supports push notifications they can instantly receive alerts when tickets are assigned to them and decide on the go if they have to send out a quick canned response, make a call or head to a safe zone with their laptops to take care of the problem.

If you’re a Freshdesk user, you can download our iOS and Android apps and turn on the right notifications to receive updates on the go. You can choose to get all new tickets, new tickets in groups you belong to, updates when tickets are assigned directly to you, their status changes, or when customers respond.

Improve coverage across geographies

A global customer base means customers spread all over the world, across time zones and geographical regions. Some customers will wake up as you’re calling it a day. Others will be well into their day by time you put the coffee on.

So, your fast response will be lightning-speed for one customer and at a snail’s pace for another, no matter how efficient your processes are or how well equipped your team is.

So, the best thing to do when you have a global customer base is to have a global team. Build a distributed team that spans geographies based on where your customers are. Hire local staff and train them from your HQ. This way, you not only ensure fast responses but you also get brownie points for having local support reps who can speak the same language and will understand where the customer is coming from.

If you can’t afford to hire people overseas, assign some of your employees to work on certain timezones, so your customers reaching out to you receive faster responses and resolutions.

Set the right expectations

SLAs work great on the agent side but if your customers are clueless about when they can expect a reply, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

The key to remember here is ensuring that expected response times are actually front and center, prominently visible to your customers even as they’re reaching out. One way you can enforce this is by showing the average response time just before users hit ‘send’ on support portal’s contact form. Another is to include expected first response time in the automated acknowledgement you send customers when they submit a question.

British Airways has the right idea towards setting customer expectations

You might also want to have different sets of response times for different channels: users reaching out on Twitter might get a response instantly, a phone might always also help get to your support quickly, while customers emailing you may have to wait for a couple of hours. If you set different expectations for different channels, customers with urgent queries can default to the right mode of communication when they try to get some help.

Pro tip: By letting your customers know what information you need to solve the problem (like app version, the platform they’re using the app on etc.) even as they submit a question, you’ll be able to cut out that first fruitless interaction where all you’re really doing is gathering context and give them a solution that much faster.

If your customers find it inconvenient to provide details when they raise issues, you can start thinking of ways to capture such data in the background (with their permission, of course), automatically. If you’re in the technology space, this is relatively easy since you can programmatically send this information from your customer’s end (be it an app or a hardware device), as long as you have their permission.

On Freshdesk, you can go to Admin > Portals > tap Customize Portal > and go to the Layout and Pages tab to add a message that mentions your standard business hours or average response times. For channels like Twitter, it’s good to have the response time listed in the bio along with your company description.

If you think we’ve left out something essential, feel free to send over an email to or comment down below. We love comments.