Response vs. Resolution

One of the favorite things my more “academic” colleagues in the customer service fields like to debate is response time vs. resolution. Which one is more important? What is the perfect mix? What grossly complicated math equation can be written to balance the two? That type of thing.

As a quick overview: response time is how long it takes for a human to respond to a message. Resolution time is how long it takes for the issue to be resolved, problem to be fixed, etc. It could take 10 interactions (calls, emails, etc.) or 1 to resolve an issue.

I’m much more of a practical person and like to take the practical approach to solving a problem. My take on response vs. resolution is that you need a healthy mix of both. It kind of goes along with keeping customers in the loop.

To me, as both a customer service nut guru, and a customer, this would be the ideal experience:

  • I send in an email.
  • Automatic reply stating my email has been received.
  • Reply 15 minutes later saying something along the lines of: “Hi Bob, / Thanks for contacting Company XYZ. My name is John and I will be working with you to resolve your issue today. I’m going to check into your issues now. I’ll send you an update as soon as I have more to report. / Thanks again for contacting Company XYZ.”
  • Reply in another 30 minutes with something like “Hi Bob, / My apologies about the delayed response. I’ve been working hard on figuring out what the issue is. I think I’ve narrowed it down <technical blah blah>. With that in mind, I’m going to try a few troubleshooting steps to get this fixed right away. Assuming one of them works (which is very likely), you should be up and running within 25 minutes. / Thanks for your patience.”
  • Reply in another 20 minutes saying “Hi Bob, / It looks like everything is all fixed now. I’ve done some testing and everything is working fine. Let me know if you run into any problems.”
  • Issue marked as resolved.

That’s a pretty good customer service experience, yes? That’s my stand on response time vs. resolution: respond quickly, but just with updates. Take your time on fixing issues and figuring out the core problem, but do provide regular updates.

As I have said more than a few times, if customers know you are working on their issue, they’ll be more patient. Most of the time, all it takes is a simple “I’m working on this right now” message to put customers at ease. If they have faith in your company (which I imagine they do if they have picked you), then status updates are all they need.

What are your thoughts on response time vs. resolution?

2 Responses to “Response vs. Resolution”

  1. Sharon said:

    Jun 11, 07 at 8:09 am

    Couldn’t agree more.
    I think this is even more important in enterprise support, because cases tend to remain open longer there.
    Another situation might be that you’re waiting for the customer to get back to you with more information (when working with the customer’s internal tech support people, for example). Even then I’d say – take the time to follow through and check up on how they’re progressing (with gathering info or testing a fix). It shows you really care about solving the problem and not just passing the ball on to their court.

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Jun 11, 07 at 8:39 pm

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Following up is extremely important. Many resolution times don’t include the time it takes for a customer to respond to a valid request for more information. However, it can be difficult to judge between a valid request for more information and a request that a representative is just using to kill time.