Every customer inquiry is important in its own right. In a perfect world, every request received by support staff would be answered immediately and solved efficiently. Sadly, this is not a possibility, and customer service representatives will almost always find themselves with a list of issues to address.
While you can’t wave a magic wand and fix every problem right away, you can continue to provide the best service possible by treating each request with the attention and concern that it deserves. The trick is to prioritize fairly and address the enquiries accordingly.
What Does Priority Mean in a Customer Service Situation?
While there are many factors that can go into a prioritizing order of operations policy, based best practices are determined by the urgency of the request, whether the querent is an active customer, and if the product is still usable given the problem at hand.
- Low priority requests typically come from visitors who are not active customers. These might include inquiries such as general product questions, sponsorship requests, etc. They do not require an immediate response.
- Medium priority requests encompass questions about product usage and troubleshooting which do not affect the customer’s ability to use the product; additionally, they might be casual users or subscribed to the free version of your product. While these might not require an immediate response, they should nevertheless be answered promptly.
- High priority requests come from customers whose use of the product is being inhibited or slowed by the issue at hand. These inquiries require an immediate response.
- First priority requests are made by users who are unable to use the product due to the problem being experienced. They require immediate assistance, and should be placed first in the queue.
It’s important to remember that importance and urgency are not the same thing. Every customer, whether a long–time paid subscriber or a casual shopper, deserves the same amount of attention. The point here is, however, that some requests just can’t wait.
Best Practices for Prioritizing Customer Requests
How your organization determines priority will always be unique to the size, type, and philosophy of your business. In this section, we’ll go over the basics of how to prioritize customer requests, just to get you started off on the right foot.
- First come, first serve. When in doubt, it’s always easiest to answer inquiries in the order that they come in. This doesn’t mean that you have to answer the low-priority question about sales before the high-priority troubleshooting request. But once incoming calls have been sorted by urgency, the safest and most equitable way to tackle the list is by doing so in the order received.
- Allow customers to determine the level of urgency. While customers might not always have the same set of criteria for calculating urgency that your organization does, letting your users manually mark their level of immediacy is one great way to establish trust between the consumer and your company. On your contact form, mark a dropdown section where your users can mark their request on a scale from “least concern” to “needs immediate attention.”
- Create categories for types of requests. A sales question from a casual shopper will probably be safe waiting for 6-18 hours, whereas a troubleshooting question from a corporate subscriber should be attended to as quickly as possible. Allow users to categorize the nature of their request, marking them as “sales,” “general requests,” “troubleshooting,” “returns,” “product failure,” etc.
- Create categories for types of customers. Some businesses may choose to prioritize customer requests based on whether they are returning customers, frequent buyers, or more. Urgency should always come before the grade of the submitting customer, however you might find that the urgency of the request in fact correlates with the level of the user. Typically, big-ticket requests are issued by larger companies subscribed to your product, and the issues experienced may have a large-scale affect.
- Respond quickly, no matter what. It’s an awful feeling, sending your request into the ether with no confirmation of whether or not it was received. Even if the low-priority message that just fell into your representative’s inbox has 100 other inquiries in front of it, it is in the best interest of both your organization and the customer to send a prompt confirmation notice that their request was in fact received, and will be addressed in due time.
- Streamline your reassign process. If all requests go to customer support first and are then manually transferred to peripheral professionals, there’s bound to be hiccups along the way which cost time and effort. You can smooth out the support operations by automating reassignment using tags or sending specifically marked requests to appropriate support personnel immediately. For example, requests marked “technical issues” might be forwarded directly to IT.
- Create service level agreements (SLA’s). When employing urgency as your primary determinant for priority, there is a danger that low-priority requests will back up indefinitely and clog the pipes. This can be addressed by setting first reply time deadlines, which once expired will move up the priority list: for example, a low priority ticket might have 3 days to be addressed before it becomes a medium-priority request.
Final Thoughts: How to Prioritize Customer Requests
Every ticket is important: addressing the requests of customers at any level will establish a sense of trust and standardize excellent customer service, resulting in healthy customer relations for your business.