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Are You Driving Your Customers to Your Competitors?
It makes my teeth ache when I am ignored.
How many times have you emailed a business and never received a reply?
My guess is: plenty. I can sympathize with you; in this day and age of lightning-quick email, it is beyond frustrating to send out a legitimately interested email to someone about their website or product ... and not even receive the courtesy of a reply.
That, to me, is unforgivable.
And to YOU, the small business person, it should be as well. It is well known that poor customer service leads to poor sales - perhaps not at first, but bad service WILL eventually get around by word of mouth!
Someone who emails you is likely very interested in some aspect of your business. A lack of response is going to cause her to go elsewhere - more precisely, it will drive her straight to your competitors! Here are a few tips on handling email inquiries:
Try to answer emails within 48 hours - 24 is even better.
Set aside time each day to answer your email. I do it three times a day - first thing in the morning, mid- afternoon, and just before bed. That way I can ensure everyone gets a timely response.
Learn to effectively use email filters.
You can set up filters to automatically file your email into separate folders, as well as to discard spam. For example ... my own filters automatically slot my email into folders called 'Sales', 'Ezines', 'Visitor Feedback', 'Inquiries', and others ... This saves me from wasting time sorting it all out myself. I know I can ignore the 'Sales' and 'Ezines' folder for the time being. The email in the other two folders get answered promptly.
Be courteous and professional.
We all have "off" days when we just don't feel like taking the time or making the effort to properly answer an inquiry. And let's face it: we ALL get questions that are plainly answered right on our website. If you've got that itchy, hot, gotta-get-away-from-here feeling, then take a break and relax. Tackle your email after you're feeling better.
If you can't answer your email promptly, let people know.
Whatever your reason, announce your new schedule. Make use of autoresponders, post it on your website or in your newsletter ... just make sure people know when they can expect to hear back from you.
Keep a stash of 'standard' replies.
Some questions are asked often. Instead of typing in the same thing over and over again, keep a standard reply that you can cut and paste into your response ... then tailor it to specifically address your visitor's inquiry.
If you can't do it yourself, hire someone.
If you really hate answering email or you simply can't keep up, hire someone to do it for you. Choose someone that's friendly, knowledgeable about your business, prompt ... and who has a good grasp of English. I don't know how many times I've received an incomprehensible response to an inquiry! Choose carefully; the person you hire will be representing your business.
Ignore your customers, and lose them to your competitors. Treat them well and you'll build customer loyalty and improve your bottom line!
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