Are you familiar with the story, "The Hare and the Tortoise?"
If not, it's about an overconfident rabbit that losses a footrace to a turtle because he fell asleep before he crossed the finish line. The turtle, despite moving slow, wins the race because of his consistent pace.
While this is a wonderful metaphor for never giving up, it's not the best story for customer service teams. If the hare performed his best, he would have crossed the finish line as fast as he could and beat the turtle in a landslide. The same applies to customer service. Although you certainly want to be detailed, thorough, and tenacious, you have to possess a sense of urgency, too, if you want to be successful.
Today's customers have higher expectations than ever before and it's harder for businesses to stand out simply by providing courteous and consistent customer support. Customers expect a high level of service from every business they interact with and the race has shifted to which company can provide the highest quality of service as quickly as possible.
In this post, we'll explain why speed of service (SOS) has become one of the most important metrics in customer support. Then, we'll end the debate once and for all, and tell you which is more important: speed of service or product quality.
What Is Speed of Service?
Speed of service is a metric that measures how long it takes to complete a customer service action. It can be applied to various points in the customer journey and is used differently depending on the company, product, and industry.
Unlike response time, speed of service doesn't just look at how long it takes your service team to reply to the customer. It measures how long it takes them to reply to the customer and fulfill their support request.
For example, we could measure speed of service for a pricing inquiry made over the phone. We would look at how much time the customer spent waiting on hold for your customer support team, and how long the conversation took once they were connected to a rep. If there's any follow-up, that ongoing communication would also be considered part of the speed of service.
Why Speed of Service Is Important
With people expecting more from customer service teams, speed of service is becoming a key metric in improving the customer experience. According to Microsoft, 54% of consumers say that they have higher expectations for customer service teams than they did one year ago. And, 72% of people expect your team to know who they are when they reach out, what they've purchased, and have insight into their past interactions with your company.
If your customer service team uses a CRM, then it's easy to recall this information quickly. If they don't have one, then they not only lose time searching for data, but they also increase the chances of churn since they're falling short of customer expectations. Customers don't want to wait around for answers, and if your service team looks like it's scrambling to gather information, they'll lose faith that your business can provide effective support.
Speed of service is also important on social media. In fact, 85% of consumers expect a response from a company on Facebook within six hours. On Twitter, 64% of consumers expect a response within one hour. As customers continue to use these platforms for service needs, businesses will need to be prepared to meet their expectations when it comes to response times.
Now that we've described a few instances where speed of service is important, let's settle the debate between product quality and speed of service — which one should your business prioritize more.
Product Quality vs. Speed of Service
The easy answer — and cop-out — is both. Both are incredibly important when it comes to providing an excellent customer experience and in a perfect world, having both great product quality and speed of service is ideal for any business.
But, if you had to prioritize one over the other, then you should start by assessing your product, company, and industry. What you sell, where you sell it, and who you sell it to, will all affect whether your customers will prefer product quality or speed of service.
For example, if you're managing a quick-service restaurant, then you might want to think about speed of service more than product quality. Customers getting in your drive-thru are expecting to be served within minutes, and most would rather get their food on time than make sure all of their french fries are perfectly cooked.
However, if you were selling luxury cars, then you might be more concerned about the quality of your product than how quickly you can get it out the door. Take the Dodge Viper for instance. Dodge only makes a couple hundred of these cars each year, but they're worth about $100K each. For that price, Dodge needs to make a car that's going to wow its customer base and keep them happy over time.
The chart below can help you make this decision.
"High head" refers to the amount of critical thinking a customer needs to do to purchase a product. The more thought they put into it, the higher head it involves. "High heart" refers to the emotional investment that the customer has to make. Buying a car is a significant decision, and we either feel great or have buyer's remorse when we make this type of big purchase.
Understanding where your brand falls on this chart will help you determine whether you should prioritize speed of service or product quality at your business. Of course, you want to optimize both, but understanding what people feel and think when buying your product will help you tailor your customer experience to their preferences. At the end of the day, whether you prioritize speed or quality should ultimately be up to your customers.
Now that we've settled this debate, train your team the right way with these free customer service training materials.