In a world where communication now travels at the speed of thought, instant gratification is not only possible, but expected.
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For a busy professional, there's nothing more frustrating than being kept waiting. Delays of any kind can impede decision-making, hold up production, and cost your customers both time and money. And now that your competitors are also instantly available with the click of a mouse or a wireless phone call, rapid response time for customer service is more important than ever.
If you answer your own phone, program the names and numbers of your regular clients into your caller ID system or cell phone so you don't have to rely on voicemail to screen calls. You'll know who's calling and whether it's necessary to respond immediately. If it's something quick and simple that can be handled on the spot, answer the call right away. If not, allow the call to go to voicemail, but make it a point to return the call at your next available opportunity.
Even if you don't have an immediate answer for your client, a courtesy call-back to acknowledge that you received your customer's call and that you're working on an answer or a solution can go a long way toward making the customer feel that you are being attentive to his or her needs.
If you don't have time for a lengthy conversation with a client, when you return the call, ask to be put through to voicemail, where you can leave a brief message stating what you're doing to service your client's needs and resolve their issues.
Use text messaging for a quick and efficient way to respond to customers without getting drawn into lengthy conversations.
If your phone is answered by your staff, instruct them to prioritize customer service calls in the same way that you do, and respond to them as quickly as possible.
If you have a mobile support staff, equip them with the same level of instant communication devices that you carry, and program them to perform the same functions.
If you sit at a computer all day, respond to your e-mails as soon as they arrive. Again, even if you don't have a ready answer, at the very least, acknowledge that the e-mail was received and inform your clients that you are working to service their needs and resolve any issues. Not only will this make your customers feel important, this habit has the added benefit of keeping your e-mails from piling up and becoming a chore at the end of the day.
Upgrade your cell phone to an Internet-accessible model and use it to check your e-mail throughout the day. With this feature, you can respond to your customers' e-mails at intermittent times throughout the day, especially when you are stuck in traffic, or waiting in line.
Set up an e-mail auto-responder that will answer e-mails immediately. An auto-responder is especially helpful with website inquiries. Just be sure that your auto-response message is personable, informative, and reassuring, and that you don't allow too much time to pass before you follow up with a personal response.
When personal, on-site customer service is required, always make sure that you are adequately staffed to meet your clients' needs, and that you or your staff arrive at the promised time. If inadequate staffing is a problem, consider enlisting the services of a temp agency, or outsourcing other tasks that do not require your own personal hands-on attention, which will free up more time for attentive customer service.