As a business owner, ensuring repeat sales should be atop every priority, in conjunction with providing a positive client experience. Of course, there are many ways to do so, but among the easiest is simply tending to your electronic inbox. I’m sure the media has found a way to convince you throughout the years that “email is dead,” or at least is on its way to death. However, heavy statistics say otherwise. By just next year, 126.7 trillion emails will be sent every year. 90% of Americans - regardless of age demographic - used email in 2017 alone, and 58% of people check their email as soon as they wake up. Knowing all of this, of course email isn’t dead; instead, its demand is actually growing.
To put it mildly, prompt email responsiveness builds trust within your consumer market. Think about what clients want from you. If you think it’s simply to give you money, you’re mistaken. Your audience trusts you for your niche goods and services. All your audience asks for in return is to be heard in the rare cases they actually inquire about what they’re purchasing.
Honestly, how long do you take to respond to an individual email? The average business sales lead takes 42-hours, do you typically beat that? I understand keeping up with email can be a difficult task; however, it is the most convenient form of communication your customers have to reach you. Especially when addressing concerns that warrant a paper trail.
So, what happens if you don’t respond to emails quickly? Well, you’re essentially saying, “you’re not important to me right now” to your customer. That’s right - response time is a nonverbal cue to your clients. The longer the wait, the more frustrated or annoyed your client grows. Failing to meet someone’s response time expectation fills them with emotions so strong they’re more likely to zone in on your nonverbal cues. In other words, longer response times lead to decreased interest on behalf of the customer.
Saying this, when do clients actually expect a response? I’ll tell you now.
11% of clients expect a response to their emails within 15 minutes. 19% expect a response to their emails within 1 hour. 14% expect a response within 4 hours, and the remaining percentage is willing to wait much longer.
The remaining question is: who are the clients in these statistics, and how do you know these statistics apply to your brand? It’s simple - younger generations - such as Gen Z - spend more time online than any other generation alive. 45% are online “almost constantly,” and 44% are online multiple times throughout their day. I understand being online doesn’t equate to email use, so I’ll address that now.
58% of Gen Z checks their email several times per day. 23% check their email once a day. Only 12% check their email several times per week, 5% once a week, and just 1% say they never check their email. Furthermore, 65% of Gen Z uses their email for personal matters, 19% use their email for school, and 14% of our youngest generation uses their email for work.
However, it’s not just the younger generations. 1 in 3 GenX and Boomers have the expectation of receiving a response in less than 1 hour. Think your older clients are using email? Think again. In 2017, 86% of senior citizens used email to communicate, and 90% of those aged 45-64 did the same.
As I stated before, response time impacts sales by building repeat business.
Companies that cater to the expectations of their buyers by responding to inquiries within 1 hour are more likely to qualify the lead. That’s all, though. These catering companies are 7x more successful than those who would take 2 hours to respond, and are also 60x more successful than those taking more than 24 hours to respond. The question is: what does this success look like?
Well, when customers’ expectations are met, they are 80% likely to continue returning to that business. Additionally, they go on to spend 67% more than they would’ve otherwise. Contradictory to this, 6 in 10 will walk away from a business forever after just a few bad experiences. So what defines a “good” or “bad” client experience? 80% of Americans say speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service are the most crucial factors in shaping a positive customer experience. Remember: the customer is always right.
Now, I’ll provide you with some tips to improve your brand’s response time. Whatever you do, don’t be average as doing so takes away your uniqueness. It’s very easy to address your inbox in more frequent intervals than 42-hours apart. Here’s how.
To begin, just encourage your employees to reset their viewpoint on email. Despite what you’ve heard, email is far from dead. Keeping this mindset is non-progressive to your business. First and foremost, suggest organizing your inbox to each employee. Once they find a system that works for them, they’ll be able to not only keep chaos at a minimum, but also be able to find exactly what they’re looking for with ease.
Moreover, convince your team to set a goal. Each team member in your company with email access should work toward a response time goal - whether they’re communicating with clients or another colleague. Like with any goal, they should always strive for improvement - to wing down that response time. Eventually, I’m sure they'll be so engaged in their work that they respond to emails moments after they receive them.
However, don’t expect your team to be superman. In the instance they fall behind in a thread of communication, a great fixer to this is to simply apologize. A generic, “I’m sorry for the delay,” can buy goodwill with the recipient - just don’t overdo it with the excuses. Besides being a personal embarrassment, it’s not a good look on your brand.
Another way to improve your response time is to set clear expectations as a business leader for how soon you believe your employees should be responding to their inquiries. In the process, you’ll even unintentionally condition your clients to know when they’ll receive a response from you. When you respond consistently over time, recipients will learn when to expect a reply from you, feeling less frustrated in times of delay.
Scheduling inbox checks is also a great tactic to improve your response time. You can do so by setting specific times throughout the day to dig into your inbox. In the rare scenario you have a shared inbox, stagger your employees to check-in throughout the day rather than all at once. This can be not only confusing for your team, but also for the client as it raises the potential for cross-communication.
In extreme cases, you can create a company-wide email policy. This policy can be a resource for addressing questions such as: what is your expected response time? How are vacation responses handled? How many emails at max can be in your inbox at a given time? Setting an email maximum can be especially beneficial for those of you using a shared inbox - such as a general support line.
Also, don’t forget we’re in the digital era. Use tech to help you out in obtaining fast and easy responses. Most email providers have built-in features for auto-replies, which can give the clients the satisfaction of knowing their message has been delivered. You can even customize your auto-reply to add in a timeframe of when the client can expect a full, human response to their question.
Quick replies are also a great use of technology in efforts of improving your response time. Quick replies allow you to create scripts which can answer FAQs and general client inquiries. This way, you don’t have to waste time that could be spent on a more complex task with rewriting the same frequently-asked information over and over again. Instead, you can just copy and paste the answer from your quick reply template.
Another great use of technology for fast responses is to utilize your inbox’s text expander. This can help you save even more time by creating text macros that are triggered by typing a few words. This way, there’s no need to “find,” “copy,” and “paste,” your script into the email field.
Most importantly, I urge you to keep a human touch when communicating via email. It’s easy to get caught up in the reality of being behind a computer screen, so throwing in a bit of humor can really personalize your interaction with the folks keeping you in business. Also, be sure to measure your progress so you can detect which of the aforementioned strategies works, and which don’t, for your team.
Time is money, and responsiveness is essential. How will you work with your team to improve your email response time?