Allocating time for customer inquiries is one of the great challenges in every small-business owner's life. How does a business owner decide which inquiries to reply to immediately and which will take more time? Here are three steps to help you prioritize these concerns and questions, thereby keeping customers happy and returning for more.
1. Acknowledge All Inquiries ASAP
Regardless of the subject matter, every customer inquiry should be acknowledged ASAP. Depending on how the customer reaches your business, an automated email reply may be most appropriate. Be sure the wording is generic enough to serve as a polite response, but that it also assures customers that an answer is forthcoming. For queries coming in via social media, respond with a "canned" tweet or direct message that sets customer expectations for a fuller response. For simple questions, promise a one-business-day reply (if possible). If the inquiry will require more than a day, let the customer know you've received it and tell them approximately when they can hear back from you.
2. Provide Quicker Response Times by Letting Employees Handle Most Inquiries
As a small-business owner, it can be hard to step away sometimes. However, you don't have to put out every fire by yourself. Everyone on the team must understand customers are unwilling to let their inquiries or complaints go unanswered. Back this up by devising a system that empowers employees to respond to most customer inquiries on their own (so you don't have to). Base this system on a customer-response matrix that prioritizes everything from answering simple product questions to handling issues that demand a more customized approach.
3. Use CRM Data to Respond to Loyal Customers First and Provide Consistent, Fast Resolutions
Your long-term and most loyal customers should expect a rapid response to their inquiries, ahead of others who might have purchased your product or service for the first time. While every interaction should be handled with care and attention, it's important to consider the following:
- Does this customer have a track record of repeated business with the company?
- Has this customer referred other prospective customers?
- Has the customer promoted the business on social media or attained influencer status?
- What are the potential costs involved in not replying immediately?
A customer relationship management (CRM) program can identify these high-value individuals and assign their inquiries to a team member who is most qualified to handle their complaint. CRM software can also provide histories of all customer interactions, as well as detail recurring customer issues and the most appropriate resolutions. This will accelerate overall response time, as your team doesn't have to reinvent the wheel each time a similar customer inquiry comes in. You can also use CRM tools to generate help content for your website, such as an FAQ page, so customers can seek out the information they need without contacting your office at all.
The best approach to allocating time for customer inquiries combines empowering employees, using a set of automated responses and drawing upon CRM resources.