Merge's Blog

How promptly do you respond to client and stakeholder queries?

So for the last week and a half, I have been blogging about how some people just don’t “get” that client focus and strategic thinking are important to the success and long-term health of their organizations.  Well, it’s a message that has resonated strongly with many of you.  In fact, it prompted one of you to send me a copy of a recent study published in the March 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review.  In this research, the authors looked specifically at how long it takes companies to follow up on business inquiries and sales leads that come to them over the Internet.  The results may flabbergast you.  The researchers queried 2,241 American companies through their websites and:

  • 37% responded within 1 hour
  • 16% responded within 1-24 hours
  • 24% took more than 24 hours
  • 23% never responded AT ALL!
  • Of those companies that responded within 30 days, the average response time was 42 hours

I too was initially bowled over by the results: almost half (47 percent) either took more than one day or never responded at all!  But then I remembered something that I mentioned in my last blog post.  When I was trying to find an ACT consultant to help us with a remote installation, I left messages for three different vendors.  One called me back within 2 hours, another took one week, and the third … well, it’s been 2-1/2 weeks and I’m still waiting!  So my small microcosm of experience exactly mirrors what the researchers found.  Not so surprising after all!

In today’s competitive world, one of your roles as a leader is to make sure that your organization succeeds in the long-term.  It doesn’t matter whether you lead a for-profit organization, government, or even a non-profit charity, responding to queries from your clients and stakeholders is critical to your continued success.  And I’m not just talking about queries from potential external clients who can create cash flow; I’m also talking about interaction with internal clients and stakeholders that may be reason for your department or division’s existence.  Are you creating an environment where responses are timely and helpful?  Do you have clear expectations of your employees that they will respond (even if they cannot resolve) to queries and concerns within 24 hours?  Why or why not?

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