How Fast Are You?

A comment I often hear during customer service workshops is: “Customers have gotten so demanding. They expect too much!”

I respectfully disagree. I believe that customer service in general has gotten so bad that most customers expect nothing, and even a nice smile or sincere hello is a delightful surprise.

The one area in which I do agree that customer expectations have dramatically risen is in regard to speed of service. Technology has trained customers to expect things FAST. Why wait 3-4 days for a book when I can have it in 30 seconds on my Kindle? Why go to the movie rental store when I can use Netflix to stream movies right to my television? Why wait in the store checkout line when I can scan my own items and be out the door in half the time?

And if an organization is too slow, trust me, customers can easily find one that’s faster.

What the Numbers Show

A recent article in Harvard Business Review titled, “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads,” discusses the importance of speed when following up on internet-generated sales leads. According to the researchers, $22.7 billion was spent in 2009 on online advertising in the attempt to attract potential customers. The researchers audited 2,241 U.S. companies to see how well they followed up on the leads generated by the advertising. The results, as you might guess, were all over the map:

- 37% responded to the lead within one hour.
- 16% responded within 24 hours.
- 24% responded in over 24 hours.
- 23% never responded.

The average response time of all companies that responded was 42 hours.

Look at the investment in $$$ to generate business, and the lack of investment many companies make in responding to those leads. Amazing!

And here’s the point – according to the research:

“Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later – and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

I believe one of the best comments you can hear from a customer is, “Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!” It sounds like they appreciate your efforts. But remember, if you hadn’t gotten back to them so quickly, they likely would have moved on to a competitor with just a click of the mouse.

Something to think about: Is your speed impressing your customers or causing them to move on to other options?

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