In the competitive world of creating positive customer experiences, it is important to know how quickly your customers expect information from you. For example, if you are in sales, how quickly do your prospects need a proposal from you? If you are in customer service, how quickly should you answer the phone? If you are in product support, how quickly do you respond to customers that have product questions? I’d like to share a few of my more memorable experiences as a customer.

A few years ago I was looking to attend a finance course for business leaders. After my initial online search, I submitted requests for information to two highly credible universities. One university got back to me that same day, the other took over a week to return my message. Which university do you think I took the course with?

In the next example, I was recently looking to open an online savings account and narrowed my options down to two well-known banks. For the first bank, the online account setup process was halted half way through when they informed me that I needed to call them to verify a few things. I attempt to do this, unfortunately I was on hold for over 25 minutes, and finally hung up. A day later, I tried again and I was on hold for over 15 minutes, I gave up after that. I then proceeded to the second bank and they made it simple to open an account online. In fact, I had a question that required a phone call. They picked up the phone within a minute. This bank made my choice easy.

The final example is from a search for new software for my team. For this I created a list of questions that I sent to five potential providers. The first provider got back to me the same day and asked for a few days to respond. Another provider got back to me quickly, but did not answer my questions and proceeded to offer a software trial so I could answer the questions myself (not a great option, I am sure it would take several hours to learn their software). Providers 3 and 4 took a few days to respond to my original submission and did not seem interested in answering my questions. And the final provider, never responded at all, even after I spent nearly 10 minutes completing their overly complex information request form on their website. In this example, we decided to work with the first provider because they were responsive, answered all my questions in a reasonable amount of time, and had great communication skills.

Think about the interactions you’ve had with companies and how they have impacted your choice to use them or to go to a competitor. Knowing what your customers expect is essential and how quickly you respond is indicative of how much they are valued as a customer. Customers may wield power with their choices, but ultimately the customer’s experience is in your hands.

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