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15 Essential Tips: How to Increase Productivity in Customer Service

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February 27, 2024
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 min read
Jonathan Sidor

A single beehive can produce up to 200 pounds of honey — over 90 kg — per year.

Now that’s productive.

And while customer service teams don’t measure their output in pounds or kilograms, agents often have to work as busy as bees to achieve their goals.

Service leaders certainly care about maximized productivity, but so do customers. 90% of shoppers say speedy resolutions are their top customer service priority. When things aren’t running smoothly, nearly 60% of consumers say long wait times are the most frustrating part of a bad service experience. 

Your support reps might be working hard, but everyone’s asking the same question — how can I increase productivity within my team?

This article shares 15 essential tips to increase productivity in customer service.

How to measure customer service productivity

With the average ecommerce company netting over 500 support tickets per day, intuitively knowing how productive your team is at any moment is tough. That’s why numerous metrics are used to measure productivity in customer service. 

The most important support metrics include:

  • First response time (FRT): FRT is how long it takes a support agent to send their initial reply to a customer’s query.
  • Average resolution time (ART): Also known as average handle time, ART is the average time it takes for a human agent to fully resolve a ticket.
  • Average response time: Similar to FRT, this metric focuses on the response time for all customer messages — not just the initial reply.
  • Revenue generated: The ability to drive sales is becoming an increasingly important productivity metric in customer service. More organizations are measuring efficiency by taking into account a team’s role in helping shoppers complete purchases.
explore the top customer service metrics

Improving these metrics — and your productivity — isn’t achieved with a single revolutionary change. It’s the result of elevating every component of your customer service, shaving seconds and minutes off of each task and process. All of these smaller changes will quickly add up and make a huge difference across your organization.

15 tips to increase productivity in customer service

Basic steps

1. Set clear responsibilities

Many support teams ask agents to act as experts on every aspect of their business, answering questions on diverse subjects like order tracking, refunds, and product advice. While this general knowledge is nice, this setup makes it difficult for reps to find their area of expertise. 

To boost employee productivity, train agents for a set specialization in which they’ll be able to flourish. From day one, onboard them with a specific role, like product expert, in mind. That way, each agent will have a more focused scope of responsibilities and will be equipped to take on their given tasks more efficiently.

Ecommerce leader True Classic has perfected this to a tee. Agents take on a specialized role and rotate positions every couple of months. That way, each rep can learn new skills, work to become an expert in that ticket category, and ultimately find the area that suits them best. 

True Classic uses Zowie to increase customer service productivity
2. Sharpen soft skills

Support teams tend to overemphasize hard skills which can be learned through education or hands-on experience. Product knowledge and technical abilities are undeniably important, but they don’t really help agents understand customers better.

That’s where soft skills come into play. In customer service, these abilities and personality traits help support agents interact more effectively with customers. With skills like active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution, reps can defuse potential problems and get to the heart of customer issues — and resolve tickets — faster.

Let agents hone their soft skills so they can build rapport with shoppers and handle more cases with ease.

Check out 9 soft skills every customer support agent should master.
3. Track metrics

Monitoring your key performance indicators (KPIs) is an effective way to spot and overcome your weaknesses.

For instance, first contact resolution rate (FCR or FCRR), which is the share of customer tickets that are resolved immediately after a shopper’s first interaction with a company, offers a clear glimpse of how efficient a support team really is.

Even customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores help boost productivity. How? CSAT scores show what shoppers are happy or unhappy with, enabling agents to address and resolve issues faster.

Identify which metrics you want to track, set up benchmarks, and monitor your results to improve long-term performance.

discover how AirHelp cut response times by up to 50%
4. Reward agents

The right incentives can work wonders when it comes to boosting customer support team productivity. 

All of the aforementioned metrics aren’t just for teams — they can also be measured on the individual level. Periodically identify your most productive agents and offer them an appropriate reward.

Gift cards, time off, and wellness rewards are some of the most impactful ways to motivate employees.

5. Keep your agents happy

Increased productivity doesn’t mean working agents to the point of burning out.

In fact, heightened efficiency can be achieved by treating your team like valued individuals and fostering a human workplace. In other words, working smarter, not necessarily harder, is key to increasing productivity.

And the data backs this up — happy workers are 20% more productive than unhappy ones.

Remember that employee happiness and business success are closely linked. Give agents breathing room when they need it, and your entire team will yield better results.

Self-service & automation tips

A nifty hack for boosting productivity is enabling customers to self-serve and find answers to common questions on their own. A knowledge base complete with FAQ pages, tutorials, and how-to guides prevents many questions from making their way to your agents, freeing them up to focus on other high-value tasks and be more productive overall.

Better still, automated self-service can be a support team’s best friend, handling a variety of tasks that would otherwise eat up time and other precious resources. Here are our top tips for embracing customer service automation technology to ramp up productivity:

6. Use a chatbot

Chatbots are an indispensable tool for customer service teams looking to boost their productivity.

By bolstering the live chat channel with a chatbot, it’s possible for the bulk of any business’s low-value tickets to get fully resolved without any human intervention.

And AI-powered chatbots can be trained on a company’s knowledge base to ensure the answers they deliver are not only instant, but accurate and on-brand.

chatbots help increase customer service productivity

Chatbots even assist teams when they can’t fully deflect a ticket. 

When these tools hand over a case to a human agent, they’re still able to transfer the essential details of each issue to human reps, ensuring agents don’t have to play catch-up when they join any case. Chatbots give agents a much-needed head start, helping them resolve cases more quickly as well.

7. Sync your tech stack

To unlock the full potential of automation, support teams ought to choose a solution capable of integrating with their entire tech stack. 

When different pieces of software aren’t integrated, chatbots have to hand over more tickets to human agents, who then need to jump between different tabs and programs to resolve even basic customer queries. All of this back-and-forth can be a major productivity killer.

To avoid this problem, it’s important for service departments to go with an automation platform flexible enough to plug right into whatever other solutions they’re using. That way, chatbots can instantly answer questions on topics as diverse as order tracking, payment, and refunds.   

8. Be proactive

Support reps risk losing a lot of time waiting for customer issues to come to them. Unclear messages or delays associated with follow-up questions may prevent an agent from taking action and resolving cases as quickly as they’d like, thereby blocking productivity.

But to increase productivity, support teams don’t have to be reactive — they should be proactive.

With the right tools, agents reach out to customers first instead of waiting for a customer to take the first step. AI can detect when customers are stuck on your website or in need of assistance and launch a chat conversation. From there, shoppers can self-serve or be quickly transferred to an agent.

This proactive service prevents minor issues from becoming major headaches, helping teams quickly resolve issues before customers get needlessly frustrated.  

9. Keep your knowledge base up to date

Having a knowledge base in place is great, but as your business evolves, it’s important to routinely update it to ensure customers continue getting accurate information.

Outdated knowledge bases are a huge (yet avoidable) source of customer support tickets — shoppers read something on your website only to find this information to be incorrect upon receiving a product.

An updated knowledge base can eliminate several tickets from ever making it to your queue, letting agents handle the rest of their cases more efficiently.

And AI automation tools can help with your knowledge base audit. By analyzing customers’ top pain points, these solutions highlight where new or updated materials are needed. 

Such fresh and relevant resources provide serious relief to your customer service team. 

Find out how to build and update your customer service knowledge base in 3 simple steps.
10. Employ intelligent routing

Many legacy tools hand tickets over to human agents blindly, so customers often have to get transferred multiple times, bouncing around between agents until they finally get to the right rep — if they ever do. Needless to say, this frustrates customers and wastes agents’ time.

However, modern solutions use intelligent routing to detect what customers are asking for and instantly connect shoppers with the most suitable agents.

These platforms even remember a buyer’s history, so repeat, high-value customers can be transferred to the same agent each time they return. This allows agents to build rapport with shoppers, learn their cases intimately, and ultimately become better at resolving issues with speed and ease. 

Help desk tips

Chatbots are one tool that can assist with agent productivity — customer service platforms are equally powerful resources.

But not all help desks are the same. For heightened productivity, consider these tips:

11. Choose a tool that’s right for you

Many help desks are one-size-fits-all solutions that restrict what agents are able to do. A flexible tool, on the other hand, can adapt to your agent’s needs to help your team achieve their productivity goals. 

For instance, Zowie Inbox lets you add, remove, or rearrange elements such as conversation lists or customer details, letting agents see the information that’s most relevant to them on their screens. Tickets can also be sorted by various criteria, like oldest, newest, or waiting longest, to ensure cases get prioritized however you want.

And this level of customization is key to unlocking your team’s productivity. When agents are able to work the way that makes the most sense to them, they’ll encounter fewer barriers and be more productive.   

Better still, an inbox that’s custom-built for your industry will do a much better job syncing with your entire tech stack, giving your team a single location to execute tasks without having to switch back and forth between different pieces of software.

discover how Zowie Inbox increases customer service productivity
12. Remove distractions

Distractions can be killers for workplace productivity.

And we’ve all been there. You’re staring at your computer monitor, trying to focus, and all of a sudden one of your open tabs is notifying you that you have a new message. This seemingly minor distraction can derail your concentration and hold up your work considerably.

Customer service tools are the same. If the wrong elements are visible on an agent’s help desk, support reps will be constantly distracted by updates that will send their productivity plummeting.

The best inboxes, though, are fully customizable, letting teams remove every element that does nothing more than get in the way. Agents only see what they need to see. With features like keyboard shortcuts making it easier for reps to get to their intended destination without getting sidetracked, agents are bound to work more productively.

Zowie Inbox's keyboard shortcuts increase productivity
13. Leverage generative AI

Top customer service tools can take advantage of the latest advances in generative AI to bring employee productivity even higher. Solutions that instantly summarize chats, improve writing, and translate messages to turn activities that were once major time-wasters into simple tasks that can be handled with a single click.

For example, Zowie Inbox’s Quick Summary feature takes lengthy chat or email messages and condenses them into more digestible recaps, while the AI-powered Write Assist helps agents modify the tone and length of any of their replies. 

With AI in the driver’s seat, reps don’t have to worry about reading an entire message or getting every word right. They can read and send messages faster, ultimately boosting their productivity.

Watch our webinar about our Zowie X2 GenAI engine
14. Streamline processes

Customer service help desks can automate a team’s most common workflows, allowing agents to spend far less time manually repeating the same steps over and over again.

One way automation platforms can help with this is through the use of templates. Teams can intuitively craft templates for their most common responses, whether it’s collecting info related to order tracking or asking for post-chat feedback. 

Earlier, agents would have needed to ask for each piece of information themselves. Now, with a single click, agents can access pre-built templates for all kinds of replies, letting them resolve more cases faster and operate more efficiently.

15. Activate light or dark modes

Sometimes, greater productivity isn’t about what your tool does — it’s about how it looks.

Inboxes that feature both a light and a dark mode don’t just look nice. They can actually boost efficiency.

Studies show that dark mode reduces eye strain, cuts down on glare, and lowers the risk of headaches. But it might not be suitable for everyone, so it’s important to give agents the option to choose which works best for them.

Empower reps with tools that promote mental and physical well-being and take one more step toward increased productivity.

Get unmatched productivity with the right tools

Zowie Chatbot and Zowie Inbox are built specifically for ecommerce customer service teams looking to save and make money — increasing productivity is our cornerstone.

book a demo to see how Zowie can increase productivity