You may have heard that content is paramount to getting attention online; while there’s good reason to trust that well-worn advice, there’s a lot more to selling online than making sure people can find you. Though it is incredibly important to share examples of the work you want to do, express the unique value of your company, and proactively answer questions that your potential clients may have, helping people to find your presence is only the first step of the journey. Once you have them on your post, following your feeds, or looking at your images and video, you have to be ready for their first action. You need to be responsive.
Being responsive is exactly what it sounds like; when a potential customer reaches out to you, you must be ready to respond, and you must do it as quickly and completely as you can. This may seem like common sense, but it isn’t a common practice. As a decorator, I would ask new clients why they chose to order from us when following up a quote; it was not unusual to hear ‘You were the only ones that answered’ or ‘You answered first’. That said, the most telling comment was ‘You took the time to answer quickly/completely, so I can tell you care about my business’. If you only take away one thing from this article, keep that in mind. Your customer wants you to care about their order, and your responsiveness is their first chance to measure how much you care.
In order to keep you on the right track to responsiveness, here are a few actionable tips:
Cultivate a 5 minute habit.
This doesn’t mean you’ll answer every contact within five minutes; what it means is if the quote, email, or other contact will take less than five minutes, don’t put it off. Do it immediately unless there is a real emergency to which you must attend.
Set aside a time for replies daily: If you are in a position where you must regularly be away from your desk, make sure to schedule time so that you can answer emails, direct messages, and return calls every day. Aim as much as humanly possible to clear your list of replies before the end of each work day.
Don’t open or advertise channels you don’t intend to follow.
If you aren’t going to take the time to answer questions from Twitter or Instagram followers, don’t create those accounts or if you have those accounts, don’t share them on your website. If your customers can find you somewhere, you’ll have to be on that site regularly or logged in to the app to check for questions and comments; once you are visible in any social context, you are responsible for replying to contacts on those feeds. Be agnostic to how a customer makes contact; answer them all.
Use tools to help you respond.
If you have the time (or staff) to regularly monitor a chat window, use an integrated system to let customers chat with you directly from your web store. Use a service to automatically text customers when their order is processed. If you are someone who likes to talk on the phone, put your number prominently on line with some hours of operation, and answer those calls. Better yet, start using a CRM system to help you send out messages and keep track of your activities and integrate it with your site. Whatever you do, just don’t let those contacts linger. If it takes you reminders to remember the outgoing messages you need to send or calls you need to return, set one whenever you promise to reach out and honor that schedule.
Automation: Set it, but don’t forget it.
Automation can be fantastic. If you have set hours, using autoresponders on your social media channels lets you address the customer immediately to proactively offer contact info, hours, and even guide them to helpful resources. Using tools that allow people to set up their own orders and designs or to solve their own problems can be a game-changer, saving you time and effort throughout the design and approval process. That said, customer trust can be damaged if you aren’t present when the automated part of your process is over. Once it’s your turn to take action, reply to a question, or move an order along, it should be done expediently. If a customer has a need that your tools or online content can’t fulfil, you need to be available to fill in the gaps. You should absolutely write up that Frequently Asked Questions page, just make sure you are there for the new questions that still need answers.
In the end, responsiveness isn’t some difficult skill to master; it’s just a habit that takes regular practice. If you keep in mind the way you felt the last time someone left you on hold or never replied to an email, you’ll know why it’s so important. Take the risk to sincerely care about your customer; reach out to them quickly, listen intently, consider their needs, and take responsibility for making yourself available for follow-up questions. You will be surprised how a little alteration in your daily habits can make a big difference to your bottom line.