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How Fast is Fast Enough?

 

Did you know many businesses are not responding fast enough for their customers? Many businesses don’t realise their response rates are not meeting their customer expectations. Client expectations to get a response from a business are becoming demanding and placing significant pressure on business resources.   So what is the response time customers expect from a business by phone, email, social media and chat? What can businesses do to improve response times?

 

The three main channels for communicating with clients are email, phone and social media, though the use of chat software has seen significant growth of 8.3% internationally in 2017 (smallbiztrends.com).  Chat as a channel is providing instant feedback to businesses if they are not performing to meet customer expectations.  

 

How – you may ask?

In those first couple of weeks of using chat software, a business may be bombarded with questions like:

“I emailed you yesterday and I have not heard back from you?”

“Did you receive my order – I placed it 2 hours ago?”

“I left a message on Facebook and no one has responded – it has been 3 hours?”

“I tried to phone you and was on hold for 5 minutes and no one answered my call?”

 

Does this sound familiar?  Sometimes you are not even aware of this tension that exists within your customer group. Many of our business clients who experience this are surprised to see these initial comments coming through chat, highlighting an issue they were not aware of. It is easy to rectify this situation quickly.

 

So why are customers demanding more instant responses?  It is a trend being seen worldwide. Customers are demanding more immediacy for a response. Information is so easily accessible over the internet, customers are now expecting demanding that businesses should reply to enquiries just as quickly – this is putting significant pressure on business resources.

 

So Why is Speed so Important in Customer Service?

 

When you receive a fast response – doesn’t it make you feel like the business cares about your needs and they make you feel important?

 

Many businesses can respond faster than ever before with the new technology available, so speed is becoming an issue of competitiveness between businesses. For example, a customer exploring the purchase of a new car online may ask two suppliers about the delivery of the car.  The first car yard responds in 30 minutes, engages the customer, organises a test drive and while a price is being negotiated, the second car yard responds 24 hours later. From our experience, the supplier who responds in a friendly, prompt and professional manner is more likely to make the sale, than the company that replies in 24 hours to a few days  – which is still very commonplace.

 

In a study conducted by the CMO Council in 2017 – it was found that 47% of U.S. and European consumers surveyed said they will abandon a brand if it repeatedly provides “poor, impersonal or frustrating” customer experiences. Companies need to be prioritising excellence in customer service.  If companies provide easy access and fast responses to questions, then this will result in happy satisfied customers upon which will nurture business growth.

 

More than 52% of consumers stated that an exceptional customer experience included a fast response time to problems and suggestions, with 47% stating a great customer experience includes instant access to knowledgeable sales staff 24/7 (CMO Council Study).

 

The CMO study revealed that even though loyal consumers will leave a brand if they’re not treated well, it also highlighlighted that consumers are seeking connection, not perfection and may be forgiving as long as they feel heard and valued. So as long as they are responded to quickly and effectively – customers will easily be retained and will continue doing business with you.

 

Many businesses don’t realise customers are quickly abandoning them for the next business that acts quickly and responds with immediacy to client questions.  Is this happening to you? Is your response rate meeting your customer expectations?

 

“The customer is smarter than ever when it comes to customer service. They don’t just compare you to your competitor, but to any company that delivers an excellent customer service experience. The bar has been raised, and companies must work harder to meet and exceed their customer’s expectations.”

 

Shep Hyken

Customer Service Expert & New York Times Bestselling Author

 

Attracting, serving and keeping customers happy are the key to survival for any business.  If customers are not happy it is unlikely the business will survive. But are customers placing unrealistic expectations on businesses?  How can businesses survive in this demanding customer driven environment? What are the response times customers are demanding?

 

Let’s consider what current studies are showing us.  What are the benchmarks for response times in the four main communication channels – email, phone, social media and chat.

Email Response Time

When do customers expect a response from a business after they have sent an email?

 

In a survey of 1200 consumers undertaken in April 2018, it was recommended that businesses should aim to respond to customers within 1 hour or if wanting to achieve a world class standard, within 15 minutes.

 

“That is crazy” or “That is unrealistic”- you may be thinking!

 

Yes – it is a huge ask of businesses, though it is achievable.  

 

The results from the survey showed that 43% expected businesses to reply in a 1 day to an email.

  So if your business responded to customer emails within 1 hour, it would stand out from the crowd and exceed the expectations of 89% of consumers! Of course if you responded in 15 minutes – well that is world class, as you would meet or exceed consumer expectations with 100%.

In another 2018 survey, Superoffice.com surveyed 1000 companies by email asking two questions:

  • Where is the pricing information on the website?
  • What was their phone number.

An incredible 62% of companies did not even respond and only 20% answered the questions in the first reply.  

The gap between the response time consumers expect and what businesses do –  is seriously damaging. You have the opportunity to stand out from 62% of companies by just responding to the email in the first instance!  This is easily done through implementing email autoresponders backed up by a solid CRM. Even by acknowledging that you have received the customers’ question / issue / complaint goes a long way towards keeping your customers happy.

So is there any difference for social media response times?

 

Social Media Response Time

 

So what about social media? Are expectations higher? Do customers expect faster response times in this channel and if so, how much faster?

 

The Social Habit research company explored this issue with its audience and discovered 32% expected a response within 30 minutes and 42% expected a response within 60 minutes. So if you responded to social media enquiries within 30 minutes you will be meeting or exceeding 74% of your customer expectations!  Sounds easy right! But can your company respond to enquiries in under 30 minutes? Responding to an email in under 1 hour is tough, though responding to a social media enquiry within 30 minutes is pushing the capability for many businesses.

 

But…… there are many companies meeting this expectation easily with the available technology.  Responding to customers in under 30 minutes is a big ask for many businesses, though serious consideration is needed by businesses to connect with customers in social media.  New practices/tools need to be adopted to meet customer expectations, otherwise you will have disillusioned customers looking to other businesses for service that meets their expectations.

 

We are now working in a global environment where consumers can access products and services from anywhere, at anytime.  It is technology that is giving consumers the power to demand more immediate responses. So is the expectation growing that no matter what time of the day, night or weekend it is – consumers are expecting an answer?

 

It appears they are!

 

The findings from the Social Habit Research Company found that 57% of survey participants expected the same response time at night or on weekends as during normal business hours. It’s getting crazy!

 

So is it any different for phone response times?

 

Phone Response Time

 

Phoning a business should result in a fairly quick response, though many businesses still think its ok to have their prospects/customers on hold for a few minutes listening to recorded messages or music before they are answered.  No one likes being placed on hold on the phone, though previously, customers felt they had no choice. Businesses will lose customers rapidly if they don’t adapt to consumer demand for rapid replies, it is fast becoming unacceptable to keep a customer waiting on the phone.  So how long is a customer willing to wait on a phone?

 

A 2017 survey of 1500 Consumers in the U.S. found that nearly two thirds were only willing to wait 2 minutes or less before hanging up and 13% stated that no hold time was acceptable.  This is a stark contrast to a similar survey in 2014 where customers were willing to hold for 13 minutes! Consumer expectations are changing and businesses are slow in adapting to this change.

 

So how big is this gap in the speed of response by companies to what the customer expects, in the three big communication channels?  It is a huge, yawning chasm and to remain competitive businesses need to act now!

So What About Live Chat Software?

 

Chat software is a relatively new technology available to businesses and a different way to connect with customers. Some businesses are hesitant to try chat as they see it as a high pressure channel, where consumers expect answers immediately and rarely wait around for an answer. Though this technology gives the business the ability to respond quickly to enquiries and that is what customers are demanding. Chat is worthy of serious consideration as it gives the power to businesses to alleviate the pressure on all communication channels and at the same time exceeding customer expectations for a response time. Let me explain how.

 

Offering chat on a website can reduce phone calls and emails for a business, even boosting sales by attracting clients that would not normally reach out.  So in the first instance it will alleviate the pressure on the two big incoming channels, phone and email for customer enquiries. More and more consumers are gravitating towards instant messaging channels like chat, so they are becoming more likely to choose chat for a faster response and generally it is the platform they are already on reviewing the business – so the choice for reaching out is easy.

 

So how fast is the response time in chat?

 

The 2018 Live Chat Benchmark Report prepared by Comm100 reviewed 40 million chats from companies all over the world representing 13 industries and found that the average response time using chat software is 37 seconds!  This is 8 seconds faster than their finding of 45 seconds in 2016.

 

With the shift for communication moving away from phone and email, towards instant response platforms like chat, business can respond to enquiries much faster than the current response times in phone and email.  As chat integrates with social media it also provides the ability to respond to social media enquiries, well within the customer expectation of 30 minutes.

“So we’re no longer measuring response time in days and hours but seconds.”

Karen Lloyd-Collins – CEO Chat2

 

With effective implementation of chat, a company can meet or even exceed the response rate in all channels, as 37 seconds is well above customer expectations for phone and email.  This is world class customer service

 

How to Implement Chat Effectively

 

What is meant by effective implementation of Chat?

Effective implementation of live chat is the key to attain this exceptional level of response time and requires adequate resourcing, streamlining chat into everyday work processes, training of staff and a commitment by management to chat.  If a customer’s experience of chat is that it is fast, with quick relevant responses, then this will become the channel of choice to connect with a business. The business is likely to see more returning customers due to this world class service experience.

 

One of the challenges to implement chat is having knowledgeable, trained staff on hand to instantly answer chats, particularly in the peak demand periods.  When Chat2 was launched in 2015, we saw first hand businesses struggling with integrating chat into their daily work processes. Their staff were already busy, so transitioning into providing a chat service was challenging.

 

Chat2 launched its Concierge Service in 2016 to overcome this challenge and to assist businesses transitioning into offering chat as a service. The Chat2 Concierge Service offers businesses a team of experienced, professional, highly trained chat agents that answer chats 24/7.  Each industry is allocated a specialised team so the members of the team are knowledgeable on the issues and questions received by customers in that industry. With the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) built into the Chat2 software, agents can easily and quickly respond to client requests for businesses.

 

Once consumer behaviour changes and consumers embrace chat over other communication channels, businesses discover there is less pressure on the other channels of phone, email and social media. In some instances they embrace the channel and train their own staff in chat to answer transferred chats from the concierge team or answer chats directly from clients.

 

One of the first questions we are asked when a business enquires about the Chat2 Concierge Service is:

 

“How will your chat agents know what to say to my clients – you don’t know my business?”

 

So true – which is why we request new clients to complete a simple online form, so the team can find out more about the business and what the business would like to achieve using the concierge service.  We create answers to likely questions we are expecting from customers in that industry, as we are already familiar with the questions that are being asked. These questions and answers are entered into the chat software for the business or concierge team, so we are all saying the same thing to clients.  A great knowledge base is created, that can also be utilised when you need to train new staff. As a part of the Chat2 Concierge Service, this knowledge base is updated continuously. If there is a question the team can’t answer, we seek the answer from the business, to upload answer for next time.

 

The Chat2 Concierge team employ highly successful techniques to engage new visitors to your business and welcome returning visitors.  Our chat agents provide prompt, polite and personalised customer service which is paramount to representing your brand. We monitor and report on our performance by the second, which means our chat agents are some of the most responsive in the business. The concierge team have an average response rate of 18 seconds, with generally most chats answered in under 30 seconds.

 

“Chat is providing a huge opportunity for businesses to provide world class service. At Chat2, we are answering chats for businesses within 30 seconds, with an average response time of 18 seconds”

Karen Lloyd-Collins – CEO Chat2

 

Our clients are attaining world class response rates and alleviating the pressure on other communication channels.  They are standing out from their competition as they are now exceeding the response times customers are demanding. Chat2 Concierge can provide the resources for those periods of peak demands with an incredible return on investment. Many of our clients who have trialled the concierge service are still using the service since our launch, as the conversion rates on chat are improving all the time as the team works in partnership with our business clients.

 

We invite you to view a short 2 minute video on the Chat2 concierge service and how the team are converting 80 – 90% of chats for business internationally!

 

We welcome any questions through chat about our services, including chat integration, customisation, staff training, chatbots, FAQ creation and more.  Our Chat2 Concierge Service is also offered to businesses committed to other chat software. Visit us at www.chat2.com

May 2018

 

 

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