4/27/2013 9:59:00 PM Increase business value with prompt emails
By EDDIE LEONARD SCORE Counselor
Question: I'm operating a single-person business, and I get overwhelmed with emails, some promotional advertising, some personal and some from current or potential clients. What does SCORE suggest as a reasonable time to respond to an email inquiry and how do I manage my time to sift through all the mail I get every day?
Answer: There are several things you can do to manage emails. Consider using an email management program like Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes. Then, if you don't already have one, create a dedicated email address for your business that you don't use for anything else. Have friends and family send to your personal address and create a third for commercial emails.
This may sound like more work, but because each email address is earmarked for a specific purpose you only have to respond to business inquiries daily.
Heidi McCarthy, Customers First Prescott Valley entrepreneur, helps businesses improve their profitability and customer retention through inventive, out-of-the-box customer service and by training them to implement 21st century tools.
"Email is an everyday tool in business these days," says McCarthy, "so much so that we don't really think about it - but we should. In many instances it is the first contact a customer or client has with our business. It is imperative that we respond to them in a prompt and professional manner."
McCarthy explains that if an email inquiry is a first contact requesting information on your product or service, it is important to respond "now", or as promptly as you can. You can be sure that the sender has probably sent the same query to your competition. The first business to respond is most likely to be the business that gains the new customer - or at least gets the point for a positive first impression.
An extensive study conducted in 2010 across both the public and private sector by the British mobile phone company Vodafone reported: "Slow Customer Response Costing UK Businesses Billions". McCarthy sites that the actual number was 70 billion pounds ($110,736,715,549.00) lost to businesses in the UK due to slow response to telephone inquiries. That got broken down to 30,000 pounds lost for every business in the UK (up from only 10,000 pounds the year before). The conversion to dollars is $47,456.59 lost to every business in the country due to slow response to telephone messages. "Fast forward to 2013," says McCarthy, "and to the almost instantaneous medium of email, and it is reasonable to say that our clients and customers want timely replies to their emails."
"Even if you need to do some research," McCarthy states, "respond promptly and give a day/time no more than two days out for your promised response, and be sure you can deliver in that time frame. If you think it will take you 24 hours to respond, promise the client a response in 48 hours. If you can deliver in 24 hours you are a hero. If it does take you longer than anticipated, you have still delivered on time. Under-promise and over- deliver!"
McCarthy stresses that if you want customer loyalty over the long term, you need to treat customers as a valuable part of your business. "Old" customers are worth their weight in gold. They just call you and reorder. You have little to no cost expenditure for bringing in that repeat business. A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that it costs about five times as much to attract a new customer as it costs to keep an old one.
McCarthy advises that we should be mindful that customer service procedures from just 20 years ago don't work in today's 24/7 world. In today's electronic and mobile world, people talk. People surf and shop the web. Unless you can truly say that no one else offers your product or service you need to be responsive to your customers and clients.
"Show Me the Money" is coming to Prescott Saturday, May 18, 9 a.m. to noon, Adult Center, 1280 E. Rosser St., presented by Larry Grossman, entrepreneur and Northern Arizona SCORE president. Learn about different ways to raise capital for small business, from traditional to innovative. Go to http://northernarizona.score.org/localworkshops. Questions? Call Howard LaPittus at 778-7438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.