businesswoman running fast

It’s no secret that consumers and businesses customers are like are becoming more impatient and more demanding. Customers expect businesses to respond to them quickly, if not immediately, and it’s putting pressure on small businesses.

Here’s a closer look at what customers expect from businesses, customer responsiveness trends, and how to be more responsive to customers so you can boost customer loyalty.

Customer expectations are rising

Business owners surveyed by Broadly in The State of the American Small Business 2019 are feeling pressed to deliver rapid service and customer support. The majority (55%) reported feeling like they had an hour or less to respond to a potential customer before the prospect moves on to a competitor.

In fact, they’re right: One-third of consumers in the study expect small businesses to respond to them within an hour to earn their business. And over half of customers (51%) will definitely go elsewhere if a business takes six hours or more to respond.

In a survey by Zingle, the number-one thing customers say would improve the customer experience is, “Faster response times.”

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How small businesses respond to customers

What tools are small business owners using to communicate with customers? According to Broadly:

  • Phone calls: 89%
  • Email: 86%
  • Text messaging: 54%
  • Social media: 49%

Overall, consumers in the survey prefer to communicate with businesses by email (57%), followed by phone (50%), and text (27%). Although consumers ages 18 to 34 also prefer email, fewer of them prefer phone (42%) and more of them prefer text (34%) compared to consumers in general. Clearly, as millennials and Generation Z come to the forefront of society, mobile communications will become more important for small businesses.

But companies often fall short when it comes to customer communication. More than six in 10 companies do not respond to customer service emails, according to a recent study by SuperOffice. A whopping 90% of companies do not acknowledge to the customer that their email has been received. Even if they do respond, 97% of companies never follow up to see if the customer was satisfied with the response.

7 ways to be more responsive to customers

When it comes to how quickly you need to respond to customers and potential customers, there’s only one answer: As fast as possible. How can you be more responsive to customers? Try these tips.

1. Ask your customers what they want. A survey of your existing customers can show you which customer service channels they prefer. For example, do they want the ability to make appointments on your website for your plumbing services? Would they be happy to deal with a chatbot if they got a faster answer? Your customers’ preferences may surprise you.

2. Manage customer expectations. While you should strive to be as responsive as possible on each communication channel, you can also guide customers to the channel that will best serve them. For example, my hairdresser recently told me that a lot of people contact him via Yelp. Since he is frequently busy with clients and not able to check his phone for this type of communication, his website social media accounts alert customers that for a faster response, they should call the salon by phone.

Originally published at All Business

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