In the beginning of this series I shared with you a story of a how a company lost my business because they never replied to my email. This could happen to you too.
Remember, it doesn’t even matter if it’s their fault they didn’t get your reply, as the case might be if they use an email account that aggressively filters email. Your customer might not even be computer savvy enough to know that a filter ate her email. All she knows is that you didn’t reply …and she might take her business elsewhere.
First off, make other means of communication available. That means you should provide a postal address as well as a phone number and perhaps even a fax line (you don’t even need a fax machine or dedicated line if you sign up for one of the many online fax services such as efax.com).
Remember however that many people don’t want to take the time to write a postal letter to you, they won’t send a fax, and they dread getting on the phone because they don’t like talking to people, or they hate the dreaded “voicemail hell.” Even if you don’t have that sort of system, they still might skip calling you for fear that you have an automated system.
So that leaves many of your customers using email to get in touch with you. But as already mentioned, emails can get lost and filtered – and your customer will almost always blame you, perhaps assuming you simply didn’t bother to reply.
The solution? Install a help desk on your site.
A help desk allows people to submit a “ticket” online …and yet still enjoy the convenience of receiving replies via email. You can remind them that if they don’t receive a reply they should log into their ticket online, as all replies will be there (even if the email gobbled them up).
It’s not foolproof of course, since some people will forget to log back in. However, it’s better than having all customers who don’t get emails assuming that you simply don’t answer your customer service mail.
The second thing you need to do is answer all customer service inquiries as quickly as possible.
Consider this – someone who’s sitting there with a credit card in hand but needs a question answered first will likely buy if you answer quickly. The longer you wait, the more the “excitement” of your product is going to wear off …and when emotion wanes, the prospect is less likely to buy.
Answer quickly while the customer is still excited, and you’re almost assured of making the sale.
Or consider this – you have an existing customer who has a support issue. Perhaps they want a refund, perhaps they need support with the product. Whatever the problem, they too deserve a speedy response.
In the case of an existing customer, the longer you wait to reply, the MORE emotional the customer will become. And that’s not in a good way. They’ll become more upset if they feel like you’re ignoring them.
So when we talk about a “fast response,” what sort of timeline are we referring to?
Ideally you should shoot for same-day responses. For example, you can check your emails or support desk twice – morning and night – and take care of all inquiries. Three times daily is even better to ensure customers and prospects never wait more than a few hours for a reply (except over night).
Of course best of all would be too answer questions as they come in throughout the day, but that’s not always possible (as you simply aren’t chained to your desk, and/or it’s not always feasible for other reasons). If you have a heavy customer support load, then you may consider hiring a virtual assistant to handle inquiries as they come in.
Regardless of how often you check and answer your customer service emails, there is one thing you should do: tell your customers when they can expect a reply.
For example, if you check email two or three times per day, then generally customers can expect to receive a reply within 12 hours or less.
You need to also recognize that your customers reside in all parts of the world in many time zones – so you need to let them know your time zone, and your customer service hours. That way if they send an email in what is the morning for them but the middle of the night for you, they know they’re in for a wait.
Likewise, you need to let customers know your business days. For example, do you answer emails over the weekends? How about holidays?
Whatever policy you decide on is fine, but you should inform your customers – both on your customer service page and in the confirmation email you send – when they can expect a reply. And then be sure to not only meet their expectations, but reply sooner than you promised.