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Especially in the world of software (especially especially in the world of FREE software), providing prompt support is treated like an impossibility. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not claiming anybody out there *doesn’t* want to answer their customers quickly. But we’re all busy, and answering questions requires focus, and we push it off a few hours. Or a day. Or (oops) 3 days.

We think this is OK, because we’re making the product better, which will make us more money. The thing is, if we answered emails faster we’d have happier customers, which equals retention and referrals, which equals more money.

How do I know? We have the numbers. We’ve done the math. Our customers thank us up to 115% more if we respond within the first hour, particularly when it’s our initial response to them (versus later replies in an ongoing conversation).

There’s two obvious reasons for this:

  1. They need help, and it’s nice to get it!
  2. They are trained to expect long wait times or even no response

We live in a world of terrible, delayed customer service. Breaking that mold doesn’t just satisfy people, it delights them. And that’s going to make you more loyal customers than spending another hour building that new widget while ignoring their emails.

We should all adopt “respond within an hour” as a policy. Not a “wish I could” or a “sure if I can find the time” but a “this is what we do”.

Am I perfect? Hell no. I’ve personally discovered that I forgot to email someone who emailed me 9 days ago! But this guideline, this goal, it gives me guilt. And I do better next time.

Our customers deserve this, and they’ll reward us if we follow through.

-Evan Hamilton
Community Manager, UserVoice

PS: For those of you that will start yelling at me about needing to sleep: of course. Sleep. State your office hours. People understand that you need to sleep (they sleep too).

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