When a customer reaches out to you with a question, how long does it take you to get back to them with an answer? Is it closer to 3 or 4 hours or 3 or 4 minutes?
Sometimes winning a new project comes down to who gets back to the customer first.
Will it be you (or will it be your competition)?
Many salespeople are very passionate about creating clear boundaries between their work life and their personal life. They dedicate a certain period of time each day toward sales and service, and once that end-of-day whistle blows they hang the “closed” sign on the door and return to their personal life.
I go back and forth a bit in my own brain on this idea of “business boundaries” and office hours for serving customers.
On one hand I can admire the idea that a person can “turn off” their business brain and separate themselves from the work so that they can go out and play. Perhaps that’s a good thing.
On the other hand, I know that the average office hours of 9am to 5pm Eastern Standard Time does not serve all the potential customers and prospects out there in the world. Those hours actual limit the base of customers you can serve. If you stop answering your phone and stop replying to your email at 5pm Eastern, you’re telling prospects on the west coast that their business isn’t quite as important as those prospects east of the Mississippi River.
I know you can’t work 24-hours a day without losing your mind, but you can put processes in place to help you stay connected with customers after you’ve shut down for the day (and before you get started in the morning).
Out Of Office Messages
Your email Out Of Office auto-responder has more important uses than simply telling people when you’re on vacation. Why not program a message you can activate when you knock off for that day that lets people know you received their message and when you’ll get back to them with an answer? To make the message even more helpful, include links to FAQ pages or other helpful resources within the message.
All prospects and customers tend to ask the same 5-10 questions. Why not include links to those common answers within the auto-response?
The Bat Signal
Commissioner Gordon never gets a busy signal or voicemail when he needs Batman. He’s got the red Bat Phone hotline and the rooftop Bat Signal to get the cowled crusader’s attention whenever he has an emergency. Do your customers know how to get hold of you if they have an urgent problem they need your help on?
When you call your family doctor’s office their message typically starts out with a line similar to “…if this is an emergency, hang up and dial 9-1-1”. How does your recorded message begin? Does it just tell them that your office is closed? Tells them the hours you are open? Duh. Google can already give them that information. You can do better.
Live Responses Always Win
Between an automated email and a recorded message — a live response will always win out. Even if it’s a very brief “Hey, I got your message but it’s going to take me a few hours to dig up the answers and get back to you. Just wanted to let you know I received your call/email and I’m on it!” goes a long way to making your customers feel heard, served, and valued.
For clients in other time zones, a message like this lets them know you are still a viable and responsive option as a service provider.
For clients who are reaching out after their own offices have closed for the day — you may even get an immediate reply back from your client saying how surprised they were to hear from you so fast, that they didn’t expect you to reply until the next day, and to take your time.
Like everyone else, your clients are just trying to squeeze in a few extra productive hours into their day by sending messages after-hours.
No matter what your working hours are, you’ll always have customers working outside of your formal business hours. Come prepared to serve your clients more quickly and more personally than your competition and you’ll always win the race to respond to your customers.