What is an Acceptable Response?
Many online marketers work odd hours, with no beginning of the day and no real end. How does this impact support and customer service inquiries? Some small businesses are afraid to reply to customer queries off-hours, fearful that the message time-stamp will betray them as a small business. The Internet however is timeless. The fact is customers appreciate a quick response. With the globalization of the Internet federal holidays are blurred. Customers expect timely responses and often make little note of the time zone the vendor they are working with.
While large corporate businesses have a large amount of resources (staff and money) for sales, customer service and marketing are often tied to traditional methods of communication with customers. Sales are in person; customer service is over the phone and marketing by advertising and mail. Email is often used to funnel customers into these traditional channels of communication. When emailing often the reply back is to call back or a request you show up in person. More so in the past then recently, many companies do not respond to email at all. While communicating by telephone and mail is important, email is part of the fabric of how people interact and companies often do not take this into account.
As many small main street businesses are offering a more personalized service, email can be more personalized than large corporations are able to provide. Since customers have become accustomed to looking on the Internet to either make or research purchases email is an easy way to communicate. Besides an easy way to get an answer, some customers want reassurance there is a human behind the web page, and not just some wizard speaking out of a microphone.
Service and forum queries are typically handled by online businesses within 24 hours; rarely do weekends or holidays alter response rates. Customer demands and the 'need' for instant answers have driven the standard. If you do not respond in a timely fashion a competitor will.
Customers are used to surfing the web and emailing. They want instant information whether it is 4pm or 4am. They want an immediate response. Many companies provide 24-hour customer service.
While some people expect responses immediately, others will think business is slow if you respond right away. This is difficult to gauge, if the answer is simple respond as soon as possible. If research is required then at least email a response that you are looking into and will get back to them.
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