June 1, 2021

Why is Time Management an Important Skill for Customer Support Teams?

Time management during COVID has emerged as a priceless advantage for businesses and CX agents alike. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), an AI analysis of more than 1 million customer service calls indicated dramatic increases in customer anxiety and frustrations, with customer agent reps struggling to respond effectively.

In this blog, we will look at why time management can double up as an effective skill for CX teams and how they can make the most out of their time, quite literally. Let’s jump right in.

Why is Time Management an Important Skill for Customer Support Teams?

Time management can address a multitude of issues that CX teams face on a daily basis. These include:

  • Inability to multitask effectively: Managing multiple tasks has become a prerequisite for CX agents. They constantly need to deal with customer queries, help their colleagues, complete admin tasks, and cater to the ever-growing customer support tickets. This is where time management can lend a helping hand.
  • Sky-rocketing rise in ‘difficult’ calls: The HBR study further claims that “The percentage of calls scored as “difficult” more than doubled from a typical level of 10% to more than 20%.” In other words, agents are having a more troubling time catering to customer queries, leading to longer calls and poor time management. 
  • Unexpected issues related to the pandemic: One of many reasons why agents are struggling with a longer resolution time for support calls is the influx of ‘unexpected queries’–from last-minute travel cancellations and appeals for bill payment extensions to disputes over insurance coverage and general financial hardships, the list is long as per the HBR research. This automatically leads to an astronomical rise in customer anxiety during service calls and makes an already hard job even more trying.
  • Lack of the right infrastructure/tools: Since most agents continue to work from home, they find themselves without the right tools to engage customers, leading to issues of time management. In fact, the HBR study claims that the average hold times ballooned by as much as 34%, and escalations (calls sent up the chain of command) skyrocketed more than 68% as agents were not equipped with the right infrastructure.

The writing is on the wall: Engaging in effective time management can save your agent’s valuable time as well as effort, and empower them to deliver a superior customer experience, pandemic or not.

In the next section, we will look at the top-9 tips your CX team can use to achieve the organization’s strategic goals and maintain employee as well as customer happiness.

Top-9 Tips to Make the Most of Your Time as a Customer Support Agent

1. Leverage chatbots

Chatbots can be trained to mimic real-life customer-agent interactions and perform routine, repetitive tasks with effortless ease:

(Image Source)

In other words, they can literally ‘take over’ your agent’s workload so that your CX reps can focus on catering to disgruntled customers and strategize ways to elevate the customer experience. Plus, these bots can provide instant answers to basic, FAQ-type customer questions, leading to prompt and quick service–always a crowd favorite! 

2. Analyze your time

This step goes more granular and requires agents to look at what their typical day/week/month looks like in terms of the workload and whether or not they are delivering actual value to the customer. Basically, agents need to understand how much time they are spending enhancing the user experience versus simply troubleshooting simple customer queries and performing ‘admin’ tasks–with the former being a preferred priority. 

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3. Build a ‘To-Don’t’ list

Yes, you read that right. All the agents must have a ready list of to-do tasks and activities that they need to accomplish. However, seasoned campaigners know the importance of making a “To-do” list. This list aims at eliminating activities that add little to no value to the customers. This includes unnecessary admin work or pointless internal meetings. The idea is to weed out all the unnecessary work such that you can truly concentrate on what matters most with respect to a positive user onboarding experience.

4. Stick to a routine that works for you

Not all agents work the same. Some are more productive in the morning, whereas others find their groove in the evening. The idea is to figure out what works for you and leverage your internal energy flow to interact with users so that you are at your personal and professional best, at all times.

5. Delegate, delegate, delegate, and learn to say ‘No’

When you are prioritizing your workload, you need to keep two factors in mind:

A. Be assertive and say no to unnecessary or irrelevant work that comes your way.

B. Respectfully delegate tasks that have nothing to do with you or ones that you feel don’t add any user value. You need to fiercely protect your time schedule and work on tasks that are within your area of expertise/skill.

6. Create a timeframe for customer conversations

If you wish to be time-efficient, you will need to start optimizing your conversation timings with your customers. While we know that building rapport is critical, there’s a fine line between being productive, building a customer relationship, and being wasteful, and demonstrating a lack of discipline. So, it helps to communicate a set timeframe to your customer in a respectful and friendly manner instead of conveying uncertainty. You can also ask agents to make use of advocacy language, which claims to lower customer effort by 77%. This will set the right expectations and ensure that everyone is on the same page. You can say something like:

“Sure, let me see how I can help you with your problem, and we can sort it out in two minutes.”

The idea is to avoid negative language and thoughtless redirects like the plague (pun not intended). Additionally, make sure to keep the conversation short and quick so that you can save your customer’s time as well as yours! 

7. Keep the deadlines realistic

In the drive to deliver a positive and happy customer experience, most agents over-promise or set stressful or unrealistic deadlines–a big mistake. They’re clearly setting themselves up for failure. As an agent, you need to push back respectfully, set a practical deadline, and under-promise so that you can over-deliver, leading to a happier user base

8. Focus on active listening and speak with clarity

One of the primary job roles of any CX agent is to engage in active listening and understand the customer’s issue, without any assumptions or personal bias. Doing so can eliminate problems of confusion and misunderstandings later on. You should also strive to communicate as clearly as possible so that there is no room for error.

Photo by Petr Macháček on Unsplash

9. Be accountable

Reassess your processes as well as customer-service policies and workplace requirements from time to time to see what’s working and what’s not. You need to ensure that these elements can empower you to work smarter in the current reality. If you think that you need a particular tool or specific skill/knowledge to deliver a rock-solid customer experience, speak to your manager. There are several remote working tools that will help you to transform into a high-performing CX agent. 

Closing Thoughts

There’s no doubt that customer service has been one of the hardest-hit departments due to the ongoing pandemic. Agents need (and can use) any strategy/technique that enables them to handle multiple tasks at once. This is where effective time management comes into play. 

Use these time-centric strategies outlined and navigate through the CX maze with greater confidence. All in all, on-point time management paves the way forward for a powerful and memorable customer experience, every time you engage with a customer–be it online or offline.

Surya Ranjan Pandita

Surya Ranjan Pandita is a digital marketer at Acquire. He is always on the lookout for new optimization strategies and loves to create actionable content. Feel free to ping him on [email protected] or on LinkedIn.

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