Want to make a customer unhappy? Make them wait. 

As customer expectations continue to change, many local businesses are failing to deliver on the one thing customers really care about: convenient and efficient communication. 

How can you speed up response times without overextending your budget, customer service team, and resources? Read on to learn how to contact customers faster and manage customer communication successfully. 

Why Speed Matters

It’s no secret that the average customer service response time for many businesses is abysmal—12 hours or more for an email response. And some companies don’t answer ever.  

Yet 46% of your customers expect companies to respond to them in 4 hours or less. And 12% expect you to respond in less than 15 minutes. 

Customers want to feel valued, and a slow response time will leave them feeling like they’re at the bottom of your priority list. In fact, over 69% of customers base the quality of customer service on whether they received a quick response or not. 

Many companies don’t have dedicated systems and processes in place to deliver a lightning-fast response. Lowering your response time is a way to separate yourself from the competition, position yourself as a customer-centric brand, and earn customer loyalty. It also increases the efficiency of your team by helping them stay on top of conversations and feel like they’re able to keep up. Feelings of competency and the right tools to stay on top of tasks can decrease burnout and heighten the level of customer service your team is able to provide. 

 business man texting a customer

How to Connect with Customers More Quickly

Let’s start with a good rule of thumb—no matter the situation, businesses should take no longer than 24 hours, or one business day, to respond at most. For questions sent after hours, you can respond during the next business day. Ideally, businesses should respond to text queries within the hour—or even within minutes, if they can manage. Even if you’re just sending an automated response to tell the consumer that you will be contacting them shortly or that they are next in line, every response counts. 

But how can you manage these expectations, especially with a small customer service team—or even no team at all? The key is to diversify your contact methods. 

Implement Customer Service Software

Customers like to contact you using their preferred methods, not yours. So if you want to maximize your number of happy customers, you should offer a wide variety of channels, including messaging, live chat, email, phone, etc. To manage a multi-channel approach while making sure nothing slips through the cracks, many local businesses are turning to customer service software. 

Customer service software (like Podium) can be a complete game changer for local businesses in particular, empowering them to deliver customer service at the level of (and sometimes even better than) big box chain brands, no matter the size of their team. 

Use Templates and Auto-Responses

How do you increase speed while maintaining personalization? Meet templates and auto-responses, your new best friends. For things like FAQs in particular, automated text responses can be a total game changer. 

Many businesses successfully use automated messaging for after-hours communication. Consider actively sending texts during business hours and using automated messages when leads engage with you after-hours. An after-hours automated text might look something like this:

Hi [CONTACT NAME]! Sorry you missed us. Our customer support team is out of office for the holiday weekend. If you need help urgently, please text [PHONE NUMBER]. 

With the right platform, your automations can be directly connected to your customer relationship management tool. This allows you to set up automated messages that are personalized with information like customer names, preferences, and history. With the right software, your system can also recognize the intent of a response such as “Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks so much.” and trigger a response like, “Okay, great!” This substantially increases the conversational feel of interactions, reduces friction between your business and the consumer, and decreases your customer service response times. 

Take Advantage of Different Channels

To offer world-class customer service, many local businesses are turning to text. 

Text is fast. So it makes sense that rather than dialing in or emailing your customer service department, your customers would prefer to fire off a quick message from their phone.

Best of all, text fits in seamlessly with your daily activities. No matter what someone is doing, stopping for a quick second to read and respond to a text is much easier than stopping for a few minutes to send an email or make a call. 

Website chat tools that rely on text, such as Webchat, can also help you reduce response times. To connect with you, potential customers can click the widget when they visit your website and input their information. From there, you can reach out to the customer via text and start a conversation that will last long after the customer leaves your site.

Many customers prefer to communicate via text, and Webchat makes it easy for your staff to interact with customers in their preferred medium. Through Webchat, you can set up appointments with customers, respond to questions, and provide additional support that can help cultivate a loyal customer base. 

Direct Customers to the Right Person

Many businesses waste their time (and their customers’ time) by not immediately directing customers to someone who can help them. To decrease response times, you should train your teams specifically in routing protocol. If an employee is talking to a customer they can’t help, they should immediately direct them to someone who can. 

​​With the right platform, routing can happen automatically. When requests come in, they are immediately directed to the teams that can help, extending the reach and efficacy of your marketing efforts. 

You can also respond automatically to FAQs with messages that route customers to live help. After the initial automated response is sent, if the consumer asks a question that requires live assistance, set up a triggered message such as “A live employee will text you shortly” to keep the process transparent. Many consumers understand the need for automations and just want to feel that they are being communicated with openly and honestly.

Send Surveys to Understand Where You’re Missing the Mark

Inevitably, most businesses will go through a period when their customer experience misses the mark—whether they’re rolling out something new, failing to keep up with communication channels, experiencing a dip or transition with their customer service teams, or something else. At times like these, collecting customer feedback is crucial.

You can send surveys to customers online, via text, or offer them in person through a QR code. As you hone in on pain points and customer expectations, you’ll be able to analyze your customer experience from a place of data-driven research and rework your processes to deliver a consistently positive customer experience. This can go a long way in increasing customer loyalty and raising the bar for existing customers. 

Often, improvements center around simple changes like increasing speed, offering modern communication channels, or increasing convenience. With the right tools, you can make these changes a breeze for a customer service team of any size. 

Connecting With the Modern Customer Has Never Been Easier

Podium enables businesses to decrease their response time and increase productivity with world-class customer service software that prioritizes customer requests and a seamless customer journey. 

With Podium on your side, you can manage all your messages in one place, build powerful SMS marketing campaigns, cut down the number of customer service calls your support team needs to hop on, collect payments seamlessly, and more. 

Podium also gives local businesses the ability to automate text messages to customers. These messages can be customized for any purpose, including sending appointment reminders, getting appointment confirmations from customers, sending customer follow-up messages, converting more leads, and so much more. 

Never deliver a poor customer experience again. See how Podium can cut down on your response times and help you retain customers here.

Jono Andrews
Jono Andrews Group Manager of Product Marketing
Jono is a Group Manager of Product Marketing at Podium, the premiere marketing and communications platform that connects local businesses with their customers.  He loves to help local businesses see success in creating the best customer experience.

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