With more and more retail outlets staying open 24 hours a day, there is an expectation of being able to get what you want when you want it. With stores that never close, you can shop at 3 am if you get the urge to do so. As the lines between store hours and 24 hours blurs, people’s expectations about their ability to do business with everyone and anyone whenever they want has increased. In light of this change in the business environment, I would like to suggest something all businesses should consider. If your company does not have time standards for responding to customer phone calls and correspondence, implementing these guidelines can take your customer service to the next level, and is relatively easy to do.

First let us consider a response to phone calls, such as orders, inquiries, and customer complaints. Even within these categories, all calls are probably not equal in needs of a quick response, so list examples of what would be high, medium and low priority needs. Now decide how quickly your company will respond, considering your responses in terms of hours, days, or weeks. Might you even need to consider a response in minutes?

How quickly do you respond to correspondence? I must admit that the first time I considered correspondence; letters were what came to mind. After thinking about that for a few minutes, I realize that faxes, emails and texts are correspondence too. I would hazard a guess that our customer’s expectations of a response time are shorter with these vehicles than they are with a mailed letter. Consider the types and subjects of the correspondence. Decide on priority levels, based on those subjects, and then decide on reasonable response times. Will you need to consider responses in terms of minutes?

Once developed, be sure to share these standards with everyone who will be answering your phones – during business hours and beyond. Your customers will come away from their contact with your company with realistic expectations. While some instances might require a quick response, this system will also serve to remind them that sometimes responding within a day or two is acceptable and appropriate, resulting in a win-win for everyone.