Business communications are a totally different animal than just a decade ago. Former methods of communication included snail mail and telephone with just a light influence from email. Marketing mail volume through USPS has declined more than 20 percent since 2008. Instead, email is the preferred method of commercial communication for a full 74 percent of Americans.
Cell phones have replaced landlines for more than 53 percent of the population and email has (virtually) replaced the conventional postal service. It’s a dramatic shift to occur within just a decade. What’s more, there are different expectations for how you’ll communicate with your customers via phone and email. To avoid egregious errors that can and will upset your customers, implement these essential rules for business phone and email use.
Put Away Your Cell Phone
Whether you’re in retail, an office environment, an essential service, or otherwise, it’s poor etiquette to have your cell phone in hand in front of a customer, let alone be focused on it. In no uncertain terms, customers expect you to be fully present in every interaction.
Implement an office-wide cell phone use policy that must be followed. Establish consequences that are firm yet fair and can be enforced by management.
No More than Two Rings
Today’s customer is increasingly impatient and expects to be acknowledged quickly, even on the phone. The age-old etiquette of answering every call within two rings is still accurate, although answering after just one ring is better yet.
Minimize Hold Times
It may be inevitable to place a customer on a brief hold from time to time. Two important rules: never let a customer hold past 30 seconds without touching base, and never have the line silent. That means, as any consumer-facing business, there should be music to listen to when holding on the line.
If you struggle either with answering calls by the second ring or with lengthy hold times, it’s time to invest in a BDC. Otherwise, you’re losing customers by not answering quick enough or by annoying them into choosing a different provider.
Set an Email Response Target
If a customer has emailed your office with an inquiry, you can guarantee they’re already browsing online for other companies who offer the same things you do. That’s why a rapid email response is critical.
Set a target to respond to all email inquiries within one hour during operating hours and strive to keep it below 15 minutes. You’ll impress customers with your expedient responses.
Establish an Auto-Response
Whether a small business or medium-sized corporation, you want to convey a professional appearance with your communications. One way to do so is with an auto-responder to email inquiries. Create yours to give a customer an idea when they’ll hear back from you, your business hours, as well as other ways they can reach your office. It’s one of the few ways you can abate customers from continuing their search.
Create an Email Signature
When an email communication doesn’t have a signature, it seems un-businesslike. Such a simple item established in your email program can elevate your office’s appearance on any email or response.
When you’re creating an email signature, good etiquette is to keep it uniform for everyone in the office. Use your stylized logo when possible, the job title, and any options to communicate with you.
Keep the Tone Professional Yet Conversational
A customer should read an email from your office as if they were speaking with someone in person. That means using professional, courteous language, obviously taking care not to use slang at all. Contractions are fantastic (there is = there’s, you are = you’re). Essentially, write the body of the email as if you are speaking directly to them. And of course, use spell check and correct punctuation, and leave the emojis out.