What is the expected length of time it takes your employees to respond to a customer service inquiry? Is there one company-wide standard? Do your employees know it? I’m talking about voice mails, Web inquiries, and e-mails from your customers, both internal and external.
When a customer needs to reach you fast, does he know how to do it? If the request is important, but not time sensitive and she sends you an e-mail, does her expectation of when you’ll respond match yours?
When I’m a customer dealing with a business, your failure to respond damages and sometimes destroys my loyalty to you. I don’t expect you to be there 24/7 unless I know you have a call center. But if I call a sales rep and leave a message and no one returns my call, then my respect for that person and your business starts to slide.
What if you created a standard for your business that stated how and when you would respond to inquiries?
For example, “Employees of XXX Inc. will respond to all non-urgent telephone inquiries within 8 business hours or less. All e-mails and Web inquiries from external customers will be responded to within 8 hours or less. All e-mails from internal customers will be responded to in 16 hours or less.
Then, be sure that all voice mail outgoing messages instruct customers in how to reach a human being in case the person they’re calling is not in.
E-mail signature blocks should do the same thing. If your employees list only their direct inward dial numbers, you risk trapping customers in voice mail hell.
When sales reps are on vacation, their outgoing voicemail messages should direct the caller to someone who is in the office. They should use an “out of office” e-mail reply to further inform people that they are out and who to contact.
Finally, how long does it take you to respond to e-mails from your employees? If you find yourself unable to respond within 2 business days, the fault, dear Brutus, lies within yourself. The cause is not the volume of e-mails you receive, it’s how you prioritize your tasks. Your failure to respond is most likely damaging your relationships with others in your business.