About a month ago, I was having coffee with a friend who, along with her husband, just purchased their first home. They are eagerly updating, renovating, and decorating as much as they can. During our coffee and conversation, she got a phone call from someone about carpet, and she politely said, “No, thanks,” hung up, and sort of sighed with frustration.
“I DID want to know about carpet,” she said, “… but that was a week ago. They are just now responding. I’ve already figured out carpet through someone else.”
That well-meaning carpet business owner just lost out on a job and a sale and income. And because of his delayed response time he also branded himself in my friend’s mind as someone who is less than reliable.
Why is that so important? Because word of mouth still holds a lot of value. So if another new home owner asks my friend about a good place to get carpet, I doubt she will recommend “Johnny come lately.” Which means “Johnny” could be potentially missing out on future income from a referral.
First impressions are huge. And there is truth to the old adage The early bird gets the worm. Now more than ever in our digital age, consumers are looking for answers quickly, and providing fast answers and replies can go a long way for your business. Small business owners are very busy people by nature, and I bet this particular owner intended to call sooner, but let it get lost in the shuffle of things.
It’s a common oversight that is a really easy fix.
I worked for a large corporation which had a same day policy when it came to responding to customer needs or questions. I saw how sticking to that policy helped customers feel like they mattered, and they weren’t just dealing with a robot or a giant unreachable corporation. It built a good rapport with them, and in the future, if they had an issue, they knew they could call on me.
As a small business owner, responding to a request within the same business day may not always be feasible for you, as often you are one person balancing multiple business aspects. At most, however, don’t take longer than 2-3 days to respond to a potential customer. And definitely don’t let it sit over the weekend without an answer. The weekend is when customers take action and dive in to projects. Even if you don’t have an answer or the exact quote, respond to them and let them know you are working on it. You’ll be amazed at how far that will go towards customer loyalty and future referrals.
Make call backs and responses a priority. Even if you commit to spending the first 15 minutes of your day catching up on this, it is a win. Don’t let them slip through the cracks. Be the early bird, because without customers and clients, business owners don’t have much of a business.