When a customer reaches out to your company with a question or problem, they expect immediate attention and prompt responses. In an ideal world, you’d be able to respond to each of them immediately. However, it’s not possible to meet customer expectations every single time. This means that for many customer support teams, there’s almost always a queue full of customer requests waiting to be attended to. So as soon as an agent finishes helping one customer, they move on to another. But how do they decide who is next?
Every customer is important and so it can be challenging to determine which customer needs you should be focusing on. This guide will walk you through the different ways of prioritizing customer needs and the importance of setting up a prioritization process.
Prioritizing customer needs
When you have to deal with hundreds of tickets every day, it’s almost impossible to decide which one to work on first. There are so many ways you can go about it, but you need to have one effective approach to simplify this decision-making process.
A ticket can be prioritized as Urgent, High, Medium, or Low based on the nature of the customer problem, type of communication channel, or the type of customer requesting the service. It’s important that you understand your customer value before you start prioritizing your customer needs. The ticket priority will decide the response time and the resolution time for these tickets. Therefore, you will be expected to respond to high- priority tickets— the ones that have the biggest impact on your business— within an hour, while low- priority tickets can be responded to within a day’s time. However, you need to be mindful of these categories since a social media post may be categorized as low-priority but needs to be attended to at the earliest as compared to an email request that may be prioritized higher but can be resolved after the social media query has been resolved.
Most help desks even have automation capabilities that let you prioritize tickets containing certain keywords. Admins can also create a group of high-value customers who pay for exclusive support and assign high priority to their tickets. You can prioritize customer requests on the basis of your SLA policy as well.
Now that we understand what it means to prioritize customer needs, let’s see why it’s important to create a customer prioritization process.
Why is it important to prioritize customer requests and create a prioritization process?
Prioritizing your customer needs will not only help you to deliver a seamless customer experience but also improve your customer service metrics. A prioritization system is the best way to create an efficient workflow for your customer support team. It also eliminates the need to scan through each request separately to determine which one needs your attention.
A prioritization process takes into account the needs of your customers and your stakeholders to eliminate friction in your customer journey. This approach helps your team to prioritize customer needs without worrying about whether there’s a more pressing issue they should be handling.
If you have a relatively low volume of customer requests, this process may seem unnecessary. After all, if your team isn’t struggling with prioritization, it may not seem very important to create a new system. But if (and when) you experience an issue and your team suddenly gets swamped with inquiries, a prioritization matrix will take care of the unnecessary hassle of sorting customer requests. All it takes is one broken page on your site or one bug in your software to spur an overwhelming number of customer requests for your product team or customer service reps to attend to.
Without a prioritization process in place, this can quickly get messy. But even under normal circumstances, having a prioritization system in place can help your team create a balance between urgency and importance. It’s easy to get caught up in low-priority requests just because they feel urgent. If a user reaches out on live chat, for example, you know they’re expecting a fast response — which may lead you to make it your top priority. But if other users are alerting you about a major site problem via email, this might need your immediate attention but emails may not get automatically sorted as a high- priority request. This is where a prioritization process comes into the picture and helps you eliminate such issues.
Once you’ve created a system, you can also monitor your average response time and resolution time. This will help you gauge how efficiently you’re helping customers — and whether your prioritization system is helping you improve customer satisfaction.
5 ways to prioritize customer requests
The first step to creating a prioritization system is to determine the nature of your requests which further helps you ascertain the approach you can take to filter and prioritize these requests. We have compiled the five most effective ways to prioritize customer requests.
1. Adopt the First in First out (FIFO) method
With a first in first out (FIFO) approach, you can prioritize customer needs in the order in which they interact with your brand. This approach is taken by the teams to work through their queues when they don’t yet have a formal system in place. FIFO is a good approach to take if you have a relatively low volume of requests.
FIFO eliminates the need to evaluate customer requests before handling them and ensures that no customer is ever stuck at the bottom of the queue for prolonged periods while other customers get responded to.
However, it doesn’t account for urgent or high-priority queries. For example, a customer reaches out to your company on live chat because there’s a typo on your homepage. A few seconds later, another customer sends an email letting you know that your payment portal has crashed entirely. Even though the latter is more important and likely to have a high impact on your business goals, a FIFO approach may not do justice to the time frame in which you should attend these requests.
2. Manually prioritize customer needs
Another approach to prioritization is manually filtering and prioritizing customer requests. Today, most help desk software like Freshdesk enable agents to add priority level to inquiries. If your team adopts this approach for each request in the queue, they can handle them in order of priority and ensure they’re not keeping customers waiting for urgent requests. This approach will require you to create a concrete set of guidelines to assess priority.
You can create a basic checklist of factors to determine the importance and urgency of tickets. For example, you may try answering questions like:
- Is the issue preventing your customers from working?
- Is it incurring additional costs for your stakeholders?
- Is it a new product feature that can be updated?
- Does it require the involvement of multiple team members?
Of course, the exact factors you use to prioritize customer needs depend on your industry and business model. But asking the right questions can ensure that your team is on the same page about which inquiries matter the most.
3. Automate your prioritization process
The most advanced method is to use your customer support software to automatically analyse your customer data and feedback to determine high-priority requests. You can create automation rules that enable your help desk to accurately assess customer requests based on the content and the customer.
For example, if you offer a trial version of your product, you might opt to allocate high priority to paid subscribers over trial users. You could also use certain keywords that indicate serious problems to automatically flag an inquiry as urgent. This way, your agents won’t need to spend time manually evaluating each ticket.
An automated setup delivers requests to your team in the order of urgency so that your support agents always address the most important tickets in the queue.
4. Categorize enquiries by type
If your company receives different types of customer inquiries, you can create a few basic categories and sort them accordingly. You can either do this manually or create automation rules that detect certain keywords and phrases to categorize relevant queries. Regardless of the technical details of the support query, this approach can help you prioritize each request accurately.
For example, if a SaaS company receives messages about bugs in its new software, it would likely tag these queries under a higher priority bucket than feature requests. When you have customer requests pre-sorted into categories, it makes it easier for agents to focus on the most critical inquiries — even without a fully automated prioritization system.
5. Prioritize as per Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
When you have to develop a prioritization system, it’s also a good idea to create Service Level Agreements or SLAs. SLAs underline the minimum standard of service delivery requirements, which also entail predetermined time periods during which a response and resolution should be delivered for a ticket. However, these time frames can vary by priority level.
For example, you may expect your team to respond to urgent tickets within 30 minutes but give them a full day for low-priority ones. Visibility into these SLAs also helps set the right expectations for your customers and your agents. Once you have created your SLA, add them to your customer support software and adhere to these policies to prioritize customer requests. You can even set up notification triggers in case of an SLA breach so that your agents never have to worry about forgetting to resolve a ticket.
It can be difficult to get your team started with creating a prioritization process. Fortunately, customer support software like Freshdesk enables teams to create prioritization processes and improve customer experience.
Once you determine how to prioritize customer needs, you will be able to meet your customer expectations every step of the way. What is your approach to prioritizing customer requests? Please let us know in the comments below.
Originally published on July 12, 2018. Updated on June 15, 2022.
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