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What CX Leaders Are Asking Us: How Do We Respond to Customers Facing Long Wait Times?

We spend a lot of time talking with Customer Experience (CX) leaders about the challenges they face. Everything from scaling their teams to transitioning to new channels or to keeping their teams happy & engaged. This is the latest post in our monthly blog series to help answer the common questions we hear from CX leaders.

For this month’s post, we wanted to highlight a common theme we’ve heard around wait times. A CX leader who recently experienced a huge spike in traffic due to the ongoing pandemic asked:

“Our agents have been doing their best to tackle the queue while case volume has been up, but many customers have still been facing long wait times and are understandably frustrated. How can our teams better communicate with them in these situations?”

Managing Long Customer Wait Times

At Loris, we have extensive data around customer emotion. Using this data, we have developed a set of principles for dealing with long customer wait times to help both customers and support agents.  Below is the playbook we recommend that customer support teams use when dealing with customers who have been waiting a long time.

Acknowledge the customer’s issue.

The first step to helping is to acknowledge the customer’s issue and your desire to get it resolved quickly. This helps the customer feel as though you have heard their concerns and understand their feelings.

Example language: “If I understand you right, you [paraphrase customer’s issue]. I know you are eager to resolve this quickly and I’m here to help.”

Establish a clear time frame for a response. 

Be reasonable and realistic when providing a time frame in order to effectively manage customer expectations. Researchers Goth & Grandy found that when customers were aware of the length of a waiting queue, they were less frustrated because it allowed them to set realistic expectations. Many companies alert customers as to when they can receive a response,  responding before resolving:

Example language: “I’m working on this right now and will respond back to you by 5pm EST.”

Note: For live chat, consider responding to the customer within 20 seconds of their initial message, and then check in every 2 minutes until the issue has been resolved.

Example language:“Hi again. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I want to let you know that I’m still working on this and I’ll be back with an update in 2 minutes.”

If you can’t take care of the issue immediately, outline the process for the solution.

By laying out the steps needed to resolve the issue, the agent is demonstrating their responsibility and increasing the customer’s process knowledge.

Example:  First I’m going to do X, then Y,  …. so… and finally…”

Use “I” pronouns instead of “we or us” pronouns.

You may have noticed that all of the examples above use the pronoun “I.” According to Packard et al., “I” pronouns help to underscore an agent’s empathy and agency, whereas the use of “we” may signal a more impersonal, many-to-one conversation which can distance the agent from the customer. By using “I” pronouns, the agent can better position themselves as an ally that understands the customer’s issue and acts on their behalf. In addition, by using these techniques with customers, you can  increase CSAT and customer purchase intent, driving real bottom line impacts. Their research found that an increase in “I” pronoun use by agents corresponded to a 0.8% increase in customer purchase volume!

If you follow these four simple recommendations when talking to customers who have been waiting a long time, you will make your customers feel more in control, and help preserve their perception of your brand.

Have a pressing Customer Experience question? Get in touch: hello@loris.ai