Expectations for customer support and response times have become sky high.
Even when you work at a small company with a tiny team, people are accustomed to fast responses to their questions and complaints.
According to data collected by Edison Research, at least 39% of people expect responses on social media within one hour, but “the average response time from businesses is five hours.” Not only are these customers not having their expectations met (a recipe for anger), but 48% of email complaints sent to businesses are not addressed within 24 hours.
Huge numbers of customers are reaching out and either finding silence or delayed responses which only increases their frustration. When you’re a small team, this can be a particularly difficult problem to handle.
Here are four ways to help you respond faster, and keep customers happy.
1. Nip big issues in the bud immediately
Your organization should have a crisis plan. Everyone should know exactly what they need to do when an issue arises to alert customers and let them know what’s being done by your organization.
I work for a small marketing team myself.
There was a day when our app was having issues, but most the team was out of the office for a holiday. No one was able to address the issue on social media. It was not pretty when I came back in the next day and checked our channels. People’s anger at the app being down had combined with their anger at not getting a response.
Recently there was another issue that cropped up because of Google servers having problems. We immediately got the word out about the issue and were thanked for our transparency and speed by customers.
So even if you have limited resources, make sure you have a plan for when your organization has a problem they need to discuss with customers. Have someone who knows how to get out the message on the right channels, either social or email, and make sure they’re provided with accurate information to share. Make sure to also follow up with customers as new information is available.
Sending out a couple tweets right away can prevent the need for responding individually to a large group of customers, or having anger build.
2. Plan responses to common questions
There is likely a small number of common questions or issues that customers are likely to have. One of the best ways to respond quickly is to have planned statements you can instantly send back. Spending time now to make resources you can lean on and share with customers will save you time down the line.
Create email and social media templates to copy as needed. Carefully choosing the right words and tone for customer interactions is difficult, and when you’re writing off the cuff you’re more likely to make a mistake. Take the time to craft the best response and use it whenever you need to.
When dealing with support questions, or even just frequent questions, make an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. You can also make pages that explain or solve common problems people have. This way you can direct people to the resources you already have, instead of having to re-explain information.
It’s all about predicting what the customer will want to know and providing it either as quickly as possible or before they even have to ask. The less people contact you because they already found the info they needed, and the easier it is to deal with the simple requests, the more you can focus on the more difficult conversations and other tasks.
3. Set a clear notification system
In the rare cases, customer questions go unanswered at my company, it’s usually because of two issues. A: there wasn’t a person who realized they were supposed to be the one to respond, or B: the person who was supposed to respond didn’t see the message (or didn’t see it for a long time).
The first issue can be easily resolved. Be transparent with your team about who needs to do what and how often. Clear expectations are essential for avoiding confusion. Make sure every channel of contact has someone assigned to it. Also set a backup person who knows to take over whenever the initial person is unavailable.
Now, you likely don’t have time to be constantly checking email or social media. To make sure we know about customer’s trying to contact us, we use Notify in combination with Slack, so I’m instantly alerted to mentions and can then go respond.
Having a system for you to be emailed or messaged when necessary means you don’t have to worry about checking all the time, and you’ll know immediately when you need to talk to someone.
4. Find a way to easily check your channels
Logging into separate email and social accounts and switching between them is not ideal. Instead, find ways to consolidate logins. We use Hootsuite to access all our social media platforms from a single screen without having to deal with them all separately. This makes it easier to respond and helps prevent missing customers who have reached out.
Similarly, if you have a contact email that customers use, you can connect it to your main email, so those emails will go through directly to your primary inbox (here’s how to do that with Gmail). No more having to deal with switching between email logins.
To make sure customer interactions don’t take over your whole day and ruin your workflow, set a few times throughout the day to check on customer questions and get back to them. Only check and answer questions at these times. This way you’re guaranteed to get back to them without taking too long, but you’re still able to get other work done.
Being smart with both time and tools while avoiding communication errors (silence) is how even tiny businesses can make sure they’re meeting the expectations of their clientele. There’s no need for anyone to fall through the cracks.