Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Why Being "Too Busy" To Reply is Damaging Your Small Business

I've always had an avid interest in handmade business, a) because for so long I have actually been a handmade business owner and b) because I do so love to talk shop with other creatives! I'm not completely sure why, I just know I enjoy the tick tock of the business clock just as much as the hum of the sewing machine and click of the scissors.

Something that has been a reoccurring topic of conversation lately is the whole communication debacle! By this I mean the ability to know how to email appropriately. Throughout my conversations lately, I have been surprised at the amount of fellow business owners who have had agonies in this particular area. The problem isn't that they don't know how to email, the problem is, so very few people know how to respond their correspondence in a timely manner or at all! 

And they aren't talking about customers, they are talking about fellow business owners and bloggers!

So, ever happy to be the Aunt in an agonising situation, I thought we could have a little chat, because I know the few in my own circle will not be the only ones who run across this issue! 

Got your cup of tea? Good! Let's go!


We all (hopefully) got the memo that responding to customers in a timely manner is a good idea if one wants to not only succeed in business, but also provide excellent customer service. But it seems a lot of people don't realise that responding to the other enquiries, collaborations and business opportunities that land in our inboxes is essential too. And responding to them in a 'make it snappy' way!

Of course, you don't have to respond to anyone in the same day, if you have more important priorities at the time - we all get busy. However leaving it longer to respond a week is bound to make most people start tapping their toes with impatience. As a general rule, you will want to get back to your clients or customers within a day or so, with other opportunities such as collaborations or enquiries from fellow business owners, you don't want to leave it longer than a week.

I've had a few people reply to an email I have sent, for a particular collaborative idea or whatnot, respond quickly and okay the idea, and then never ever respond to any further emails. Even after I have followed it up with a couple of polite 'just wondering if my email arrived?' notes... We all know that short of checking the spam filter and the odd dodgy connection, emails rarely go missing. I've had people you would never have expected do this, and it's sad for me, because I usually admire these people and it's a little hard when they disappoint my expectations. 

I also have a friend who had a collaboration well and truly arranged with a small, creative business. She's a blogger and the email correspondence had okayed the idea. The thing was, the business was so disorganised, she had to chase them up multiple times and they took about 3 weeks to respond. When she finally got a response, the business made no apology and threw the busy card at her. This didn't cut the mustard because everybody is busy and when busyness was held up as a badge of honour, it made my friend feel as if her time wasn't being valued. Eventually, she decided not to work with the business and (they) missed out on a great opportunity. In fact, in the correspondence, it seemed that the business had forgotten that my friend was spending her valuable time, helping them to promote their product. It scares me that a business that has seemingly got it together, can be this silly!

As a small business owner who has worked closely with bloggers, I was frankly a little surprised that they threw this opportunity away so casually. Bloggers are also known as digital influencers - they have a special ability to share a business's products with their own unique audience and it works in a similar way as word of mouth does - possibly the most powerful way to spread the good news about your products. The time I spent with bloggers as a business owner was invaluable, and I wouldn't have dreamed of messing them around or considering my own 'busyness' to be more important than theirs. Undervaluing someone's time is insulting and inconsiderate.

Perhaps more importantly, my friend was extremely enthusiastic about this business's product, and had intended to be a good customer. This isn't the first time I have experienced or witnessed a small creative business disregard someone who wasn't only trying to work with them, they would potentially have been a pretty good customer.

We are taught to focus on not trying to please the entire market, and to find our target audience or customer so we can serve them better. This is true, except I do something a little different. Consider everyone a potential customer because people can surprise you! They might not buy your product, but if you've made a good impression, they are more likely to pass your information on to one of their friends who will. Something simple as the inability to promptly respond to people's emails can cost you customers, and it can cost you your reputation. 

I've been ignored on a collaborative level by people, whose newsletter lists I am subscribed to as a customer. If they never respond, you can be sure I will never purchase because they no longer have my trust - what if there is a problem with my order? And if they take too long to respond? Well I assume they really aren't that interested if it has taken three weeks to get back to my email and I don't actually have the time to spend any longer trying to organise something. I literally have no idea whether they are going to take another three weeks to reply so I'd rather just cut loose and work with someone I know is interested. 

The trouble is, I don't think anyone gets it. I don't think they understand just typing "Oh I was busy" is actually a bit insulting. It's automatically disregarding the time and effort the other party has put into thinking about, well, them!!! Everyone is busy. And everyone has a social media account. When a business is posting several times a day on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter but NOT responding to emails, it's a little confusing. Social Media is important, but it's just the business/brand facade. What goes on in your inbox is the *actual* important stuff. It's where the sales, enquiries and opportunities live. It's hilarious that people post online, on their social media and then after a couple of weeks use the 'too busy' line......Well it would be funny, if it wasn't so common and so very, very frustrating for the (non) recipient!

Apologies if this post is a little bossy, but it has to be said. It isn't hard to respond to emails quickly or acknowledge that you have received. It's good manners and it's essential if you want a healthy business. 

Tips for businesses and bloggers:

- If you are too busy, let everyone *actually know* 
Post a social media status that says something like: 'Hi, We are currently flat out and we have received your messages! We are sorry we cannot get back to you as quickly as usual, however please know, we are working on it." It's the considerate thing to do!

- If you are too busy to reply or need time to think, reply! 

"Hi ......"Thank you so much for your email! I have a lot on right now, so I just wanted to let you know that I will get back to you as soon as I can. Hope this is okay!" It's not that hard, and it shows you appreciate the other person's time.

- If you haven't received a reply after a decent interval - follow up. Sometimes, things to get lost or the Spam box eats them. Just checking in to see if the 'email arrived' is a polite way to check or give someone a nudge to reply. If you really need to get in touch, try commenting on their social media...because mistakes are made and if you do receive a reply 'finally' and it comes with a decent apology and explanation, then maybe you shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater...

- Remember to be professional and treat everyone as a potential customer. If they are showing an interest in what you do and want to work with you, do them the courtesy of replying prompting - whether you are saying yes or no. Keeping people waiting does your reputation damage, it's not really about how patient or impatient the sender is. How you conduct yourself is what counts.

- Social Media. Don't forget that people can see your activities online now! It's hard to wait day after day for a response when a business continues sharing cute quotes or photos of their coffee on instagram, day after day!










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4 comments:

  1. Hi Megan, I have been following your blog for a while now thanks to a link on Say! Little Hen. I want to congratulate you on such a timely and VERY TRUE reminder of email etiquette. If it's okay, I will link to this post in a newsletter of mine. I think what you have said so concisely, considerately and WELL, is worth sharing further. Thank you for a very good read while I was drinking my morning cup of tea :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Margareta, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave this lovely note! Of course you may share, I'd be delighted. I am really glad you enjoyed my article! Megan x

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    2. Hi Megan, just a link for you to my newsletter where I mention your article. Have a wonderful weekend, filled with all the things you love. M x
      http://margaretaosborn.com.au/content/september-school-holidays-start-now

      Delete
  2. Hi Megan, beautifully and succinctly put. Thank you for raising this really annoying issue x

    ReplyDelete

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