Response Times: Are They Losing You Business?

Kyra Deprez

The standards to which we hold ourselves as well as other can vary greatly depending on a number of variables.  

When calling 9-1-1 we expect that the phone be answered promptly and that in turn there will be a first responder arriving to your location within minutes.  In the case of an emergency every minute matters.

But, isn’t that true for just about anything these days?  Every minute matters!

For example, if I leave the office at precisely 5:00 pm, I can catch the traffic light around the corner, and arrive home in just under 15 minutes.  However, if I leave even one minute after 5:00 pm, I miss the light and it is a trickle down effect, making my commute closer to 30 minutes.

Another example is when I am making an outbound inquiry for a service.  If it is something that can be done via email then that is my preference.  However, I expect a response within a couple of hours.  If I don’t hear back I get antsy and end up picking up the phone, and at that point I am already getting anxious and defensive since I haven’t heard back regarding my request.

So, how important is the response time for field services?  Well, that also varies.  If you are a plumber and responding to an emergency water leak, every minute counts.  Having a 24-hour line that is answered within a couple of rings is very important.  For cleaning, both residential and commercial, the phone should be answered promptly during business hours, and all voice mails should be returned in no less than an hour. Otherwise, your prospective clients will likely go somewhere else, rather than waiting for you to respond.

Have you ever heard a potential client say: “Ohhhh, Thank you for the return call, BUT we already have it covered”  It makes me cringe to think that I missed out on the opportunity to gain a new, lifelong client.

Respond to your business email quickly!

Answering your business email promptly should be a priority for all business. Not only is email an important communication line with your customers, it is often used by them to gauge that you are reliable and trustworthy.

All e-mail should be responded to within 1 to 4 hours during normal business hours.  The inquiries may be from a current client or from a prospect.  The quicker the response time, the better.  Evenings and weekends it is highly recommended that you check in with your email once in the evening, and at least twice on each Saturday and Sunday.

If a customer sends you an email with a simple question, and you take forever to answer it, what does that say about the rest of your operation? It’s one of the tell-tale signs customers use to separate men from boys. And we all want to play with the big guys, don’t we?

Talking about the big businesses, surveys show that the Top-500 fail miserably at answering their business email. Jupiter Communications reported that 42% took more than 5 days to answer a simple question. In the world of Internet, that might as well have been forever. If a customer has to wait that long for an answer, most likely she will have taken their business elsewhere. 35% of companies don’t even bother to answer at all. I guess they just don’t like customers 😉

How prompt are you at answering your email inquiries?

Business email should be answered within 4 hours max. No, exceptions.

If you really want your customer service to shine, you should consider answering your business email every hour, on the hour.

It is even better to check out your direct competition by sending them an e-mail as if you are a potential customer. Send them more than one on several days. Especially check out Mondays, Fridays, and weekends. Track the time it’s taking them to answer, and implement a procedure to beat them at the business email game.

OK, I understand that for small businesses, resources are limited. But your stream of business email is most likely to be a lot less than for big guns. And if you check and answer e-mail immediately, numbers of e-mails to answer are usually very easy to handle.

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