How does your response to new enquiries reflect on you and your business?

Do you pay for advertising but don't bother to follow up when someone makes an enquiry?

The way my enquiry is dealt with, whatever the type of business, will, in most cases, will make my decision for me.  If I contact two or three companies with the same enquiry the one that is responsive, interested and helpful will be my choice.  First impressions really count.

This was really brought home to me over the last few weeks when my husband was struggling to find a tradesman to complete some work for us.  He contacted someone who had done quite a lot of work for us before and he thought they might be able to do it or recommend someone.  Three weeks and several phone calls later there had still been no response to the messages left. 

So he looked in our local magazine and found two people advertising that they did the work we were looking for.  One had a website, one didn't.  My husband checked out the website and emailed.   No response for a couple of weeks by which time we had contacted several others.  I asked one of my clients for a recommendation. My husband telephoned and left a message - no response.  Then one of my work colleagues contacted someone they knew.  They responded immediately but weren't able to do anything until after Christmas. I suggested waiting - after all they had got back to us and that was definitely in their favour.  However we really needed the work doing so we got a fifth recommendation.  This man responded within 36 hours and straight away agreed a price and a time with my husband which worked both for him and for us.  Phew!

What an enlightening experience though.  I'm lucky that in my business the people I contact mostly have very good service and I believe my business communicates well with clients although, of course, there is always room for improvement.

Customer service and prompt communication is so important.  Not just when you have the job but from the very first moment you are contacted.  What a waste of money advertising is if you don't respond to enquiries. And if you don't have a website these days I am sure it limits the work that is available to you.  People rely on being able to research a company or an individual to get a feel for whether they are the right person to do the job for them. 

Today I received an email from a company saying they had received my enquiry and could they call me?  I thought it was spam as I didn't recognise the name.  I looked at the email a couple of times before I realised it was a finance company I had contacted on behalf of a client almost 3 weeks ago.  I declined their offer of a call!

When you receive poor communication at enquiry stage it has a negative effect on your feelings for that person or company.  Even an email or an answerphone message saying you are not available or will respond within a certain amount of time is a much better response than nothing at all.  It establishes a connection with the business and a friendly voice or message will encourage you not to give up on them.  

We encourage new enquiries to phone and talk to us rather than email as we can begin to build the relationship and establish their need.  We can't know what is involved from an email so will always ask if we can ring them.  If we think we are able to help them we will arrange a more in depth call with them to find out more.  

I am happy to spend some time talking with potential clients before we both decide whether our service is what they need.  What is irritating though is never hearing from them again.  No acknowledgement on receiving the quote, no reply to emails, no reply to telephone messages left.  Its not time consuming to send a quick email saying that you have decided not to go ahead.  

Good customer service varies from person to person and business to business and we all have different expectations.  Receiving poor customer service as a business owner is a trigger for looking at the service you offer to see if there are any flaws in it.  But equally receiving good customer service should be used as a benchmark for the customer service in your business.  We can continually learn from what works for us personally and ensure we are doing the best job in our business that we can.  Communication is key.