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The only thing shorter than a New York minute is an email one.
Does this conversation sound familiar?
Did you get my email?
The one I sent you today.
I didnt get the email. When did you send it?
15 minutes ago.
So it goes. A recent survey by TargetX, an email marketing firm, indicated that 13 percent of their respondents said theyd take their business elsewhere if they dont receive a response to email within one hour. 15 percent said they were willing to wait up to three hours. Eight percent said they would wait six hours. Almost everyone (88 percent) expected a response within 24 hours.
To customers, waiting for an email response has become the equivalent of standing in line. This means that your company MAY BE losing potential business if it doesnt provide an immediate response to incoming emails. It probably IS losing potential business if its not responding to emails the same day they are received.
There are several things a business can do to alleviate the potential impatience/anxiety of customers who await an immediate response to their emails:
Its a good idea to send people an email response as soon as possible even one that doesnt answer their specific questions or address their immediate concerns. A quick response that acknowledges the message has been received and sets expectations for when they will be contacted again with an answer is often enough to placate, if not satisfy, an anxious inquirer.INSTRUCT
A lot of the emails you receive dont provide enough information for you to provide an immediate answer. When providing individuals with the opportunity to contact you, let them know in advance the information they need to provide to get an immediate answer. DIRECT
Routing all emails through a webmaster, who divvies them out to the appropriate person, is inefficient. When soliciting emails from your web site, try to route incoming emails to the appropriate person rather than having a single individual respond to all emails. For example, sales inquiries might be sent to the appropriate sales person, based on the location of the sender. REDIRECT
Give individuals an opportunity to call you if theyre not getting what they consider to be a timely response. This is particularly important for customer service issues. In striving to become more efficient, customer service departments often make themselves the most difficult individuals to contact. FOLLOW UP
After responding to someones email inquiry, take the time to circle back by email, or even telephone, to ensure the individual was satisfied with your response. Did they find the product or service they were looking for, even if they did not select your company? The responses to your follow-up provide a valuable view of your company, its products, and competitors. PHONE
A May, 2003, Meta survey indicated that 80% of business people prefer communicating by email to using the phone. Nevertheless, knowing when to pick up the phone is important. If individuals provide their phone number and invite you to call them within the body of an email, consider picking up the phone. It will likely provide more goodwill than email. As one person put it:
I prefer e-mail with people I don't care much to deal with or don't have the time to deal with it. However, when I want something I prefer the phone because of the immediate interaction.
The challenges of email time compression can be met. Although the average person may receive more than 50 to 100 emails a day, few of them require a response. After filtering through the unwanted Spam mail, a 2002 study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 60 percent of Americans who use e-mail at work receive 10 or fewer actual work-related emails per day.
Nevertheless, the number of emails we receive each day are predicted to increase exponentially over the next decade with increases in Web services, wireless access, and the integration of technology.
Have any doubts about this? Email them to me. Or, email them to my cell phone. Or, email them to my wristwatch. You can do all three at my web site: http://www.onlinearts.net.
And if you do, please, dont expect a response within an hour.
Troy Janisch is president and founder of the Icon Interactive Group (www.iconinteractive.com
), an industry leader helping companies integrate Internet and other Interactive media into sales channels, marketing strategies, and overall branding. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.