Fast customer service isn’t the be-all, end-all metric

Fast customer service is often touted as a must. Customers don’t want their time wasted, and so it follows that prompt service can make for smoother, more positive experiences.

In contact centres around the globe, response times are carefully tracked. And, similarly, you’ll find operators targeted on how quickly they can resolve queries.

But there’s a glaring pitfall to this focus on speed. Namely, fast customer service isn’t the be-all, end-all metric — and over-prioritising it can cause unnecessary damage.

The importance of fast customer service

It’s undeniable that we all hate to be kept waiting. We live in an age where instant gratification is increasingly expected. Where customers expect easy, slick experiences without delay.

All this is to say that fast customer service is popular. There is a need for customer service speed — particularly when it comes to channels like live chat — which promise a live, real-time experience.

Fast customer service is impressive. It puts right what went wrong and reduces the inconvenience for your customer — something which will improve their satisfaction.

But there’s a difference between a fast response and quality customer care. And if all you measure is speed, it’s going to negatively affect your service output.

It’s not the king of customer service metrics

Over-prioritising service speed can hurt the customer experience, and make for stressed agents to boot.

Yes, fast customer service is important for customers. But providing strong support is more nuanced than merely serving as many customers as quickly as you can. And doing so can be detrimental to your customers and agents alike.

If all you measure is service speed, then customers will inevitably get unhelpful replies from rushed agents. Meanwhile, agents will feel stressed while they skirt the line between daily targets and actually being helpful. Plus, poor employee satisfaction can spread — and create poor customer satisfaction.

No matter how fast it is, an unhelpful, robotic response isn’t going to win your customers over. Agents rushing to wrap-up an interaction can come across as rude and uninterested in helping – let alone going the extra mile. All of which suggests that the customer isn’t appreciated.

These factors, then, make for a bad experience in a short space of time — not a good formula.

Consider this

For an over-the-top example, consider which would make for a faster reply, and which is the better reply to a customer query:

“That’s not in our policy.”


“Unfortunately, our policy states XXX, however, I can do YYY for you today. Would that be acceptable?”

While this is an exaggerated example, the point stands. Prioritising speed can put other important elements of customer service at risk.

What you need as well as fast customer service

So, what other metrics and practices do you need to prioritise?

First, there’s empathy. Fast customer service shouldn’t sacrifice the human touch, the ability to recognise how the customer is feeling.

Metrics like customer satisfaction scores and sentiment analysis can help you measure empathetic support.

Then, there’s adaptability. Prioritising fast customer service too much can make for rigid, robotic responses. But that’s not helpful. Agents need to be empowered to adapt to different needs — some problems will take more time than others.  

Effective self-service options are also an increasingly important resource to offer customers. Many customers prefer to look for answers on their own — and not deal with support reps at all.

In short, you need empathy, you need to make sure questions get answered, problems get solved, and issues get escalated. It’s not enough to be quick — you need to be effective.

Holistic approach

It would be silly to suggest that fast customer service isn’t important for a great customer experience.

Speedy responses, however, are just the start of a great customer experience. Unless the agent is effective at both communication and problem-solving, the customer will be left feeling short-changed.

Holding fast customer service as the be-all, end-all metric is a flawed idea — there’s no one ‘top metric’ when it comes to customer service excellence. A better plan is to adopt a holistic approach. One that encompasses empathy, problem resolution, AND speed.

Useful links

Meeting the need for customer service speed

Agent empowerment: what is it, and why is it so important?

Live chat and your customer portal: a match made in heaven