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The importance of fast email response times to customers and prospects

Fast response times to customers and prospects is the low-hanging fruit of inbound marketing and lead-generation

Have you ever asked yourself, "How quick do our sales team reply to our customers?", and "How long does it take the customers to respond to my sales team?" Do you know?

I've been working in the customer service and sales sectors for about 15 years, and one of my pet hates is when companies do not get back to me as a consumer.

Each of the companies I've worked for, during my career, would look for high performance from the sales and marketing teams by implementing KPI’s, Performance Metrics, Targets and SLA’s with the intent of maximising sales and customer satisfaction. The bottom line is getting always getting sales and showing a return on investment (ROI).

The new-age customer

But let's think about it for a moment. These days, customers can access information at a click of a button, whether it's from their mobile phone, laptop or any other connected device available, giving them the ability to search and have access to whatever they are looking for in seconds. In other words, if your sales team isn't responding quickly enough to inbound leads from potential customers, they will go to your competitors, who may be quicker to reply.

With the rise of super-convenient online shopping, consumers can seamlessly browse, purchase and have products ordered and delivered to them within hours without any delays. No need to speak to a sales rep or send an email to anyone. Customers are getting accustomed to instant gratification and service.

Everybody is competition

I recently spoke to a director of a specialist retail chain and asked him who his competitor was. His answer was just, "...everyone..". What a brilliant response I thought. Simply put, if consumers were not buying from his store, then indeed every other retail shop would be his competition.

Response time is vital

If you take a look at the cost involved in marketing and lead-gen campaigns today the total amount spent on gaining inbound leads can be mind-blowing. Yet, with GDPR compliance regulation in the backdrop, implementing digital campaigns, using PPC advertising and setting up events has become a significant part of any companies sales funnel these days. The bottom line is that you can no longer turn a blind eye to your company’s email response time. It is vital to respond and engage with customers and prospects within minutes of the first touch. If you don't, your digital marketing and lead-gen campaigns will only be a costly and wasteful burden on your company.

Here's a tip from my side:

The faster you respond the higher your chances of making the sale. You have a 100 times better chance of contacting a prospect if you reply to their inquiry within five minutes, compared to if you waited 30 minutes. Quite simply if you respond to a prospect while you are top-of-mind you are more likely to catch them in a buying mindset. After 30 minutes your chances of contacting that same prospect fall dramatically.

Let me give you an example

Company A is a supplier of services and recently invested a large sum of money into a marketing campaign which attracted a lot of interest, which excited management and salespeople.

The leads and enquiries were flowing into the marketing and sales inbox and feedback to Senior Management was that this was going to be the greatest quarter ever. The ROI was calculated to yield a return of 80x.

After a few weeks, however, the sales numbers were not adding up and confirmation emails and responses were not coming through causing great concern for the senior management.

The natural responses to this crisis were, of course, any of the following, "The customers never came back to us", "I never got any good leads", "the leads were cold", "customers did not really want to buy", "sorry, must have missed that request", "the leads weren't good", or "customers rather wanted to speak on the phone".

In cases like this, it is easy to put the blame on the 'non-performers'. However, Company A tasked their operations team to the investigate historical and real-time data of their sales teams’ email response times in timetoreply.

The timetoreply analytics indicated that initial response times were poor. On average the data showed that it was in excess of 2 hours. Adding to this, customer queries showed that 60% of the inbound enquiries to the sales team were only responded to on an average of 6 and a half hours.

Based on these findings, the operations team were able take action in restructuring internal processes concerning the way customer emails were being managed and responded to by the sales team.

Getting back to people quickly is easier said than done. The starting point is to implement accurate response measurement systems so you can see where delays are occurring. Then you can take remedial action to improve performance. This is proven to result in a strong correlation between improved response times and increases in sales.

Fast response is the low-hanging fruit of inbound marketing and lead-generation. Before you’ve even spoken a word you will have demonstrated you value their business and place their needs first. Fast responders build trust, faster.

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