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A matter of timing: Why businesses must reply to customer queries quickly

8th December 2020 Print
IT worker

One simple, and perhaps startling, reason why: businesses could risk losing sales or even, in many instances, long-term custom. That’s because making prompt replies to customer queries isn’t just good customer service; it’s also often key to fostering strong customer loyalty. 

Indeed, research has revealed customers’ belief that faster response times are the most important ingredient for improving the customer experience. So, what factors are driving the value that customers attach to speedy service – and how can you ensure they receive exactly that?  

Yes, fast customer service is important – the numbers reveal it 

In one survey mentioned in a Forbes piece, 55% of business owners said they felt as though they needed to respond to a customer in an hour or less of receiving their query if these business owners didn’t want to lose that prospect to a competitor. 

It turns out that these suspicions are well-founded. In the same study, a third of consumers revealed that they expected a small business to respond within an hour. Meanwhile, 51% of customers definitely intended to shift their attention to a rival if a business took at least six hours to respond. 

Are businesses currently meeting customers’ expectations on this score?

Sadly, the answer is often a resounding “no”. The problem, however, isn’t necessarily with the range of communication tools that businesses have available for customers to reach them through. 

Research has revealed that 89% of small business owners use phone calls to communicate with customers – while 86% of these owners do so by email, 54% through text messaging and 49% via social media. Among customers, email is the most preferred method of contacting a business, with 57% of them favouring it – ahead of phone calls on 50% and text messaging on 27%. 

However, more than six in ten companies fail to reply to customer service emails, while 90% do not notify the customer that the email has landed in their inbox. Even when businesses do respond, 97% of them neglect to follow up to check with the customer whether the response satisfied them. 

There are similar problems in the B2B (business-to-business) space, where just 37% of businesses respond to leads within an hour, research published by Harvard Business Review suggests. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be too difficult for many businesses to turn the tide in this area. 

How you can help your staff to shorten response times 

You certainly shouldn’t hesitate to add to the communication channels your staff are trained to use – provided that these are channels your customers, both actual and prospective, would like to use to reach out to businesses like yours.  

However, adding further strings to your customer support team’s communicative bow in this way does threaten to throw up a tangled mass of customer service channels your workers could struggle to easily switch between as necessary. 

Hence, you shouldn’t be afraid to consider investing in a unified communications (UC) solution, like the Gamma-provided Horizon Collaborate, that would weave various communication tools into one intuitive whole. 

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