Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Quick Response Provides a Customer Service Advantage

There are many strategies to help you deliver amazing customer service, and one of the most powerful ones is quick response.

Quick response is a derivative of speed.  Customers want it – whatever “it” is – fast. Customers want it now.  They are impatient and don’t want to wait.  How did this happen?  Over time, customers have been programmed to expect things fast.

Years ago I remember going to the grocery store and was amazed when the items that I was purchasing passed over a scanner, rather than the cashier manually entering the items price into the cash register.  Instantly the price came up on the display.  It dramatically cut down the time to check out, which made the lines move faster.  Technology was creating speed.

In the early 1980’s I ordered a piece of luggage from Kluge.  The luggage was advertised in a magazine with four to six weeks for delivery.  I remember that the luggage showed up in just three weeks.  Wow, I was impressed.  That was fast.

Federal Express may be one of the most influential teachers of speed.  Even today people recognize that “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” people think of Federal Express.  The term “Fed-Ex” has become more than the name of a company.  Today it is a verb that that is used to describe that you want something delivered fast – by tomorrow – even if it is UPS, the United States Post Office, or some other company can also deliver tomorrow.

We are conditioned for speed, and when it comes to customer service, speed can become a confidence builder and a value added competitive advantage.

So, more than just delivering a package quickly, how are companies using speed?

I would venture that not many people, if any, enjoy waiting on hold for a customer service representative.  At one point Southwest Airlines took a more positive approach about long hold times.  A humorous recording told its customers waiting to make a reservation not to hang up as they would just go to the back of the line.

Forward thinking companies realized how much customers hated being on hold while waiting for a service rep that they invested in technology that would automatically call a customer back when it was their turn.

Instant chat on a computer allows a customer to go to a company’s website and “chat” in real time via typed questions and answers to the company’s customer service representatives.

I was just introduced to a new company, Zingaya, who has taken the concept of instant chat even further. Rather than merely typing you can actually hold a vocal conversation through the computer.

If your computer is equipped with a microphone and speakers, with the simple click of a mouse you can immediately connect with the company’s customer service rep.  That’s fast!

The point is simple.  Whether it be part of a sales process or a customer service issue, people want whatever they need fast.  And they are willing to pay more for it.

Customers will pay extra to upgrade shipping from regular to next-day.  Similarly, they will pay more for companies who respond quickly.

How much more would you pay to a company that guaranteed you wouldn’t have to wait on hold for a customer service rep?  How about an office machine dealer that guarantees three hour response times?

So, how fast will you return a call or email?  How long, or actually how short, will you make your customers wait?  Fast is good, and instant is even better.  When it comes to customer service, speed is a competitive strategy that will separate you from your competition.  It is also a value added advantage that customers are willing to pay for.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Great post, Shep. It seems there are a couple of angles here. First, if you can exceed customer expectations, such as delivering a new suitcase in three weeks instead of six, you’ll do well. Second, when a customer has a problem, the faster you can help them resolve it the better.

    You asked readers if they would pay a premium to guarantee response times for service issues. I would not, because I expect fast service for any service issue. However, this could be a point of difference. Comcast recently advertised a two hour service windows. On the other hand, I would pay for express delivery on a item I purchased if I wanted it faster.

    • Great comments, Jeff. As for paying more for better service, there are providers that will give you the option of paying more for faster response times, no waiting, etc. The point of this article is that better service makes price less relevant. If I had a choice of doing business with a company that provided great service or a company with just average service, would I be willing to pay a little more for a product from the great company? I think so!

  2. Enjoyed the post, Shep. I’d like to suggest that what is just as important as pure response time is setting expectations and demonstrating value for the customer throughout the experience, which usually serves to keep the customer’s emotions in check.

    The issue of putting customers on hold is a perfect example. I think what frustrates customers more than just having to wait on hold is having to wait on hold with no perceived benefit from doing so.

    Some customer service agents provide a brief explanation of why they need to put the customer on hold, which is great, but they also need to couple the reason with a “so that” statement, i.e. a reason why being put on hold is actually in the customer’s ultimate best interest. “So that I can connect you to the particular technician who will be able to solve your problem most efficiently, I will need to put you on hold for about 30 seconds. Is that okay?”

    Ultimately, as you suggest, speed and response time rule the day, but setting expectations and demonstrating value can also come in handy in creating optimal customer experiences.

    Thanks for sharing this article!

    Scott Heitland
    Pretium Solutions

  3. There’s a definite need for speed amongst consumers. What makes customer service even faster is if the customer doesn’t have to call or email the contact centre. Companies need to make answers to common customer questions available on a self-service basis across relevant channels such as the web, mobile and social media – a great example of this is airline AirAsia which is dealing with over a million enquiries a month using self-service.

  4. At Lucep we see this all the time with our customers, as soon as they start responding quickly to customer requests they see a significant increase in their closing rates. 30-50% of customers give their business to the first company that responds to them. So in this day and age response time can make or break a lead.

    Lucep helps businesses by notifying your sales team the second someone has requested a call back via your website. Lucep gives the sales person vital information on the incoming lead so that they are better equipped to handle the request.

    Zal Dastur

  5. Southwest may have been on to something with their humorous message. Now I’m trying to brainstorm things that hold lines could do to help customers retain their patience. I wonder if they were told how many people were in line in front of them would be helpful. Or perhaps an encouraging message telling them that the wait is almost over.

    • Technology companies like Fonolo has great solutions to call a customer back, let them know how long hold time is, etc. And, humor can add to it.

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