In the Trenches: Team vs. Individual Customer Service

In the early days of Cranky Concierge, I personally handled all client requests for flight-planning assistance. As the company grew, we shifted to a team-based approach, so we could provide faster service. However, I’ve begun to wonder whether this is truly the best way to handle booking travel.

Let me explain. Ever since we started having multiple staffers plan flights, we’ve asked our clients to make sure to “reply all” to our emails and also to include our general address in their correspondence. That way, any one of us can easily pick up where another team member left off — and give clients the service they seek without keeping them waiting.

I’m in and out of the office a lot during the day, so I’m not always sitting at my desk ready to book a flight. Kevin is available more frequently, but he’s usually done for the day around 3 p.m. Pacific time. Clients on the West Coast may not want to wait until the next morning for assistance. After that, Mike comes in, but if he’s helping someone who doesn’t “reply all,” the client won’t get a follow-up response until the next afternoon.

Working as a team, we can make sure clients who email us anytime during business hours get help as quickly as possible. That’s great for some customers, but others don’t like changing horses mid-race: If they’ve started working through issues with one employee, they like to stay with that person. Of course, they also want a speedy response.

Since I’ve yet to hire any superhumans (though sometimes they certainly appear that way), we can’t make both things happen. People can’t work 24/7. So, it leaves us in a tough spot trying to figure out what clients would most prefer: fast service or personal attention.

I suppose we could let them self-select. If they don’t “reply all,” then they are going to have to wait for the person they emailed directly to help. If they do “reply all,” we respond quickly. But, generally, when customers don’t “reply all,” it’s because they simply forgot or hit the wrong button. Therefore, it isn’t indicative of their actual preference.

I could send out an email survey to existing clients, but my hunch is the team concept is best. Am I off-base?

About Brett Snyder

Brett is the Founder and President of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. He also writes the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.
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7 comments
hozycat
hozycat

You might be suitable, this specific is the best answer. The situation many of us face isn't a cost one particular (as an individual say, you will discover easy alternatives out there there) yet it really is certainly one of moment. We've been incredibly busy thus many of us have not experienced the ability to try to carry out this specific. Because irrespective of cost, there may be however moment engaged.

http://www.systemsjunction.com/

cedarglen1
cedarglen1

Like most, I guess I would prefer to have the best of both worlds, both personal and quick, 24/7.  And you're right; that simply cannot happen.  Since the relationships developed remain in the business/professional category, not personal, I'll opt for the team approach.  I do not need your services at the moment, but when I do, I'll try to remember to hit "Reply All," a button that I have avoided for years!  

Matt
Matt

Agree with HansMast, this is a common issue for retail customer service departments.  There are many inexpensive solutions (monthly service fees) which can manage this and ultimately improve your customer relationships. 

HansMast
HansMast

Even if the team concept is best, it seems you're not using the right tool for the job. A HelpDesk-style tool where a customer opens a ticket and then can simply reply to the emails is the correct tool. Your team works in a tree-based online interface that keeps all a customer's correspondence in one place, has an easy interface to view all unanswered responses, keeps all replies in one central thread per issue, etc. Easier for customer, way easier for you.

mharris127
mharris127

@HansMast In a perfect world a help desk style interface would be best, I agree.  Unfortunately Cranky's business is not large enough to likely be able to afford such a program, IIRC info from his blog tells me that he has about eight employees total.  I don't know what he clears monetarily a year but I would guess from reading his blog and perusing his website for information that implementing a help desk style interface would cost more than he can afford (likely hiring a programmer to create that interface would cost over $10K, probably way over that amount).

HansMast
HansMast

That's incorrect. As usual, there are excellent, free, open-source solutions like http://osticket.com

Hiring a programmer to reinvent the wheel on an incredibly common task like a support ticket system would not be wise.

crankyconcierge
crankyconcierge

@HansMast  You're right, this would be the best solution.  The problem we run into isn't a cost one (as you say, there are very easy solutions out there) but it's one of time.  We've been extremely busy so we haven't had the opportunity to try to implement this.  Because regardless of cost, there is still time involved.

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