I’ve said it before and it’s time to say it again to leaders. Customers run your business. The role of the business is to deliver what customers want, when they want it and package the delivery to specifications. Whether leaders choose to acknowledge this fact or stay in denial, the reality is that if customers do not get what they want, they will exercise their option to migrate to willing and able competitors.
So, what exactly does responsiveness mean to customers? Simply the reaction time of a business to a question, query, request, complaint, expectation, or any other customer need, generated through the array of telephone, chat, Facebook, website, email, WhatsApp and in-person channels.
Customers’ expectations of reaction times vary to match the particular channel of communication or delivery. Customers expect faster response times with telephone, chat, WhatsApp, in-person and email channels, than they do with Facebook and website channels.
Given an acceleration in the rate of adoption of technology and digital services by individuals, customers now have an expanded appetite and preference for interacting with low-effort channels when they have to conduct business. This means that the real goal for businesses therefore, is to react to their customers’ needs in real time.
Customers’ expectations of reaction times vary to match the particular channel of communication or delivery.
Customer-driven responsiveness is no longer a nice-to-have feature in business. It should be considered a standard feature at this time, in the same way that giving customers the full range of payment options is now a standard feature. In other words, it’s time to stop committing the sin of delayed responses and unresponsiveness to customers.
Let’s say a supermarket decides to ensure that its telephones will be answered by the second ring, regardless of the call volume and accomplishes this goal. The next goal may be to ensure resolution of the customers’ needs within a specified timeframe, whilst its third goal may be to further shorten its response times.
Accomplishing all three goals would create a customer’s dream space. Customers would be delighted to hand over their cash without having to grumble or complain about poor service. Even if from time to time, the supermarket experiences some service failures, customers will remember the good times and extend forgiveness, especially if the failure is not systemic.
Few businesses have standardized response times in place to drive efficient and predictable outcomes.
Adherence to service level agreements, or standardized response times for key activities, would have assisted the supermarket in achieving and sustaining its three goals. Few businesses have standardized response times in place to drive efficient and predictable outcomes. Those that do, tend to be the more customer-focussed businesses that have adopted “responsiveness-to-the-customer” as a business strategy. When responsiveness becomes a strategy, the bottom line of a business is impacted directly and in a positive way.
The supermarket goal scenario that I just painted would be considered unrealistic by some individuals. Why? Because we are conditioned to paint and to think inside the box. If a goal seems too far-fetched, or hasn’t been attempted before, then the naysayers have a field day.
Suppose a competitor comes along and says, “Well, why don’t we give this high-level responsiveness goal a shot?” The competitor then proceeds to focus on making it happen, instead of opting to be stuck in a mindset of why it can’t be done. The successful outcome, I suspect, will speak for itself.
Responsiveness is high on the list of customer-friendly features that build emotional connections with customers.
We know that customers respond generously with their wallets when they are happy with a business. We know, as well, that responsiveness is high on the list of customer-friendly features that build emotional connections with customers. My suggestion is that instead of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the goal of becoming a super-responsive business, that the starting point should be on accepting that the goal as “possible” and then, to fire up all pistons to convert the possible into the achievable.
Before the businesses that are actively pursuing space tourism came along, the idea of commercial flights to the moon and to Mars was considered way too far-fetched and banished to the “dismiss immediately” pile.
You see, much of what successful individuals and businesses accomplish, lies in the perspective that they bring to the table. Often, that view is about “how something can be done and not about why it can’t be done.”
When responsiveness is a “true” business strategy, it’s propelled always, by starting the question with, “How can we?” and never stumped by the, “Why we can’t” roadblock.
After all, don’t customers deserve to be on the receiving end of what’s possible?