How do you improve your sales teams’ email response times by 400%, while capturing accurate data to boost performance throughout the organisation? We caught up with Joe Fego, customer service manager of New Jersey based Phillip Jeffries, to hear about how timetoreply has driven efficiencies, created clarity and is set to transform company culture a year after being implemented.
Back in 2015 Joe Fego of Phillip Jeffries was grappling with a seemingly insoluble problem. The company needed to measure its customer service and sales teams’ email responses. Doing this would tell them how efficiently they were communicating with customers – a vital metric in what is a notoriously competitive and fast-paced industry. The goal was simple: respond to customer emails faster and exceed expectations around customer service.
As Joe explains, “The theme of our industry is, I needed it yesterday. Plus, our customers are salespeople too, who represent our product and need information to supply to the end client. A lot of these end clients are very, very high profile people that have the bandwidth and the financials to spend ten to $25,000 to redesign one room of their home. Those types of individuals want it happening now. They don’t want to wait. When they ask a question they want an answer and rightfully they should.”
Is it fair to say a delayed response from the staff at Phillip Jeffries would create a bottleneck in the sales process? Joe doesn’t hesitate: “That is the death of a sale, yes absolutely. We’re not the only kids on the block. Our market is very, very competitive.”
Phillip Jeffries is a luxury and specialty wall covering company with its headquarters based in New Jersey. A world leader in its market, the company provides wall coverings for anything from luxury and celebrity homes to Las Vegas gambling pits, five-star hotels and more. As well as creating top-class products, Phillip Jeffries strives to maintain the very best customer relationships in its industry.
Joe’s problem was there was no way to reliably measure email response times in Microsoft Outlook, let alone break such data down into different categories and trends. That also meant the data insights and visualizations they wanted were impossible to create.
At first, the only way they could find to measure response times was to implement a ticketing system. But that brought its own challenges. As Joe remembers: “It didn’t work out too well because we had used a ticketing system to replace the email. But it wasn’t meant for email, it doesn’t handle what email is. We were running into a lot of operational issues on our end and eventually just had to let it go.
“We are not your typical customer service department. We handle both post and pre-transaction customer requests. A large part of what we do is servicing requests from customers about products, whether they are in stock and lead times etc. We wanted to improve quality checks on our teams and keep up with the timelines we commit to with our customers – SLAs you can call them. We wanted to make sure we were ahead but we really had no objective way of measuring that. Even if we’re the fastest in our market, how can we claim this if we don’t even have a way of looking at it accurately? The bottom line was, we had to find out what our email timing was like and then gather the data. Then we knew we’d be able to make improvements and what work we had to do to get there.”
After looking at different ways to solve the email measurement problem Joe decided to trial timetoreply. The platform promised to meet the company’s needs more cost-effectively and without the hassle of a full-blown ticketing system. Says Joe, “Not only did it do the job a ticketing system couldn’t do, but we also didn’t have to pay for lots of unnecessary features. We ran some tests and looked at the data and said, well heck, this all we really need. So we rolled it out through our whole team. What timetoreply gave me were the bottom-line details of who was responding well and who wasn’t.
“We also didn’t have to worry about the I.T. that was needed for a ticketing system, or installing software on machines. To set up the initial seventeen agents we needed couldn’t have taken more than half an hour on timetoreply. Literally all I had to do was go in, set up agents with some basic information like an email address, their name and their time zone. Since we use Office 365 all they do is enter their Office 365 information and click one button that allows the analytics to be gathered. And that’s it. There’s really nothing else to it and everything else I need is available on the timetoreply website when I log in.”
Finally, Joe could study what the fast responders were doing to keep up, learn from it and then use that knowledge to train those who weren’t responding to emails fast enough.
One early and unexpected insight Joe uncovered was how important it is to make sure teams are working on today’s work today. “We had a couple of people that were a little slow at certain tasks or were getting bogged down as things got a little crazy towards the end of the day. That meant they needed to come in the next morning and catch up on the day before. Once we had visibility on the issue we caught up to that very quickly and made some big improvements. It was actually an awesome learning experience for me and I loved every minute of it.”
Once there was a reliable measurement base for the company Joe started looking at what other timetoreply features would provide more clarity on teams’ performance. “Actually, the best thing that I like is the Team feature, where I can put people in teams. For instance, we have a bunch of different divisions here and I can break them up into groups. We can really measure pretty much in any way we want. And the numbers it gives back are good. We record the straight timetoreply™, we also record the amount of emails coming in and then the completion ratio. That really is going to tell the whole story of how each agent operates through their email, compared with their own team and all teams in the business.
By measuring email response times across individuals, teams, and territories, the company can now identify issues and work on them to make tactical improvements. Those improvements are already driving significant change. The starkest benefit of timetoreply at Phillip Jeffries is a four to five times improvement in email response times. “We successfully worked from about four hours down to around 45 to 50 minutes in somewhere in the vicinity of six to eight months,” Joe says. “It’s put us probably at the top of the list in our industry. We can confidently say ‘Hey, we can get you a response on anything in less than 60 minutes.’ That’s kind of tough to do in our field because a lot of the work is very, very detailed.
After a year using timetoreply we asked Joe if they’d thought of measuring response times in other areas of the business. “That’s a great question,” says Joe, “because being a really fast-paced business, everybody’s busy all the time. It gets a little crazy and I have put it out there to the teams throughout the business to measure their response times to inter-office email.
“It’s one of those areas where you wouldn’t really know how you’re performing internally unless you saw it and you’d be like, ‘Wow! Maybe we need to do this a little faster’. Being a service department, I think it’s great to set up SLAs with other departments that are critical to your operations. If I’m emailing my purchasing team for a lead-time, then I need to get back to a customer today. That means I need a one hour, two hour or three hour window for a reply internally, depending on the urgency. Having that internal response objectively measured is a game-changer.”
Finally, we asked Joe about the broader benefits of timetoreply to the Phillip Jeffries business and whether it’s brought a more stable base to operations and brand. Says Joe, “That’s a really good question. I mean you can’t make a claim and not back it up. Now we can say, ‘We respond to email in 60 minutes. Here look. Here’s all our information from the past 12 months.’ it really comes down to be able to measure. We used to hear that responses aren’t fast enough, maybe four, five, six times every round of calls. And a round of calls consists of only about 25. It’s one of the things we just really don’t hear about anymore.”
For Phillip Jeffries that’s enough to impress customers, maintain sales process momentum and get ahead of the competition.
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