How Well Do You Respond?
How well we respond when people contact us can influence their impression of our business, whether they will return to purchase goods or services in the future and what they may share with others about the experience. And although a business may be very good at this generally there are some situations where the level of responsiveness may not be up to its usual standard. Here are some examples to consider:
A client emails or messages a question that requires checking some information first. Even if you can’t provide an answer straight away always make sure that you acknowledge the email or message as soon as possible and confirm when you’ll reply to their question. If the response time starts to extend over a number of hours (or even days) they may start to think that you’ve forgotten them, that you’re ignoring them or that you don’t value them – all of which can damage the impression they have of you and your business. If you find it difficult to respond quickly because you’re either out of the office, attending an event or working on a project then consider using a generic automated response that does the same thing (e.g.: acknowledge receipt of the email, explain that you’re currently unavailable, thank them for contacting you and let them know when you’ll be back in touch). Equally make sure that you set the right expectations for when you’re available by highlighting your office hours on your website, your phone message, automated messages etc. so that when anyone contacts you they will know the best times to reach you.
A business associate invites you to an event or meeting. Whilst this might not be an urgent enquiry and will probably require checking some things first, thanking them immediately for the invitation and letting them know when you’ll confirm your availability will demonstrate how much you value the relationship. Business associates are fantastic advocates for your business so make sure you give them every reason to say glowing things about you.
You receive a client complaint. Client complaints are never pleasant to receive and when you take a lot of pride in delivering an excellent level of service and/or product it can be personally disappointing to receive this feedback. However, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to speak to the person involved responding quickly will show that you are taking their complaint seriously and that you are committed to resolving the issue (even if you need to conduct some further investigation first before providing a solution).
Someone posts a positive and thoughtful comment on your social media. Whenever someone posts a positive and thoughtful comment on your social media acknowledge them for doing so (even if it is just to hit the Like button). People who support your pages want to have an interaction with yourself and your business and be able to share their own thoughts and ideas. When you acknowledge their comment it will send a signal that you appreciate their support and it helps to build the relationship. Remember that they are spreading the word about your business in a positive way to others and may turn into clients or business associates in the future so treat them accordingly.
Some staff in the business are responding differently to enquires. Be careful of assuming that everyone in your business knows how to respond to enquiries. Make sure that all staff are informed about the expected turnaround times on any enquiries as well as how they are handled in terms of your internal processes (and document this in your Operations Manual so that it becomes standard business practice).
An enquiry comes through to you personally which is actually for someone else in the business. Even though it may be quicker to simply forward this onto the relevant staff member, always respond first to the person who enquired to thank them for contacting you and advise who will be assisting them. This will prevent any possible confusion occurring from being contacted by someone other than yourself (when they were expecting to hear from you) and makes it a much nicer experience as a result.
No matter how committed we are to responding well to everyone sometimes illness, urgent matters, mistakes, emails ending up in junk mail or technology breakdowns can cause delays. However, if this happens don’t let the embarrassment of not responding properly prevent you following it up when you can. Most people will understand if you apologise for the delay and then focus on assisting them (as well as appreciate your honesty). And lastly, if you’ve tried to contact someone and they don’t respond or you discover that there’s something wrong with the contact information provided (e.g.: wrong phone number, email bounces back, etc.) then remember that as long as you’ve done all you can to contact them that’s all you need to do.
Responding to people in a quick and consistent manner (no matter what the scenario is) will create a positive impression and demonstrate how much you value the business relationship with them. Make sure that everyone in your business is responding consistently to all enquiries regardless of the situation and you will continue to impress clients and business associates by how well you respond.
Photo credit: iStock.com/NiroDesign