Your response time sucks!

My frustration level has been exceeded!  How about yours?  Have you had dealings with vendors who fail to respond to your reasonable inquiries and requests?  Have you had appointments (doctors and lawyers are the stereotypical examples) that have kept you waiting beyond the stated appointment time?

If you’re a lawyer or other professional reading this, think about how your clients feel in conducting their business with you.  Read on for nuances of this issue.

I know the title for this post is not politically correct. I was tempted to change it, but then decided to stay with it to express how I am feeling at this moment … and to see if this frustration is shared by anyone else reading my columns.

In recent days, I’ve sent emails to several people who are interested in doing business with me, but who have failed to respond. In order to do business with someone, you’ve got to keep the dialogue moving forward. There is no one whom I’ve coached or who has called me inquiring about my coaching service that doesn’t have uppermost in their mind the desire for more business.  My experience with entrepreneurs tells me that all businesses are the same, they want more customers/clients; that’s the way increase revenue, a desired goal for most people.

How do you get there, however, if you fail to respond to emails of inquiry?

Michelle Obama, in her speech before the Democratic National Convention in Denver, in describing her husband, said he is a “man of his word,” his “word is his bond.”  

When you already are doing business with someone, let alone wanting to do business with someone, and you fail to respond to communications of inquiry, when you fail to keep your promises of performing at a designated time, you break the bond, you destroy the trust. This may be a small item to you, but it’s huge to the customer/client.

How can you expect to receive more business from that person, how can you expect to keep that business in the future, and how can you expect to get referrals from that person? … Because you won’t get referrals, you won’t get more business, or a higher share of their market from that client/customer, and you are likely not to keep that business in the future, especially if there is an alternative source (and there usually is!).

What I find particularly interesting is that the size doesn’t matter!  The size of the organization (whether for goods or services) has nothing to do with the response time. Whether the organization is large, small, or even a solo, response time is a matter of philosophy.  I know larger organizations who regularly fail to respond quickly. And I know larger organizations who respond quickly. In fact, one promotes the concept on its web site, saying they will respond within 2 hours of your call or donate $100 to your favorite charity and buy you lunch at a fancy restaurant. Oh, and they suggest that you call your current vendor and leave a message requesting a responsive call — their bet is that they will respond before your current lawyer.

And I know sole practitioners (literally no staff at all) whose stated policy is to respond within 90 minutes! When I asked him about this, the sole practitioner said that it builds trust. If he responds within 90 minutes, as he says he will in his phone message, you will begin to trust him not only on this small matter, but also on other, larger matters of consequence. In other words, he says, trust is built in small chunks. But, it can be destroyed in one fell swoop!

Size doesn’t count in this instance. Philosophy does. Commitment to service does!

Where are you on the scale of responsiveness? What can we do to encourage better response time from those with whom we’d like to do business?

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