Part of owning a successful business is realizing that you can’t be everywhere at once: You can’t simultaneously handle accounting tasks and answer customer inquiries so you hire an accountant. You can’t spend hours on social media, so you take on a virtual assistant to help you with social media management. You can’t stay awake 24 hours a day or work seven days a week, so you let customer inquiries go unanswered until you (or your virtual assistant) are back in the office. “Surely,” you think, “They’ll understand having to wait for an answer until we’re open again.”
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Decades ago, the above approach was sufficient—people were used to having to wait—but in today’s “instant everything” digital world, leaving customers unanswered for hours or days can be disastrous over the long term. It can lead to lost customers, poor reviews that harm your business’s reputation online, negative comments on social media, and other issues.
Though it’s tempting to pin the blame for this phenomenon on people’s impatience, the fault here does not lie with consumers. Instead, their heightened demand for readily-available customer service is reflective of broader economic realities. Many people today work long hours, for example, so the only free time they have to make calls is during the evening, on the weekend, or during holidays. It’s therefore unsurprising (and perfectly understandable) that they get frustrated if they can never get in touch with you during those times.
Furthermore, because most families are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, the durability of the products and services they invest in matters profoundly. If something stops working, they want to know why—and moreover, what to do about it—as soon as possible. Being available to answer emails, calls, or chat requests from these concerned customers is more than just a courtesy; it gives them the assurance that their meager earnings will not be wasted on your products. If customers feel like they’re being ignored or neglected, on the other hand, they’re likely to lose faith in your brand and choose one of your competitors instead.
If you own a small or medium-sized business, at this point you may be thinking to yourself, “But I can’t afford to set up a 24-hour contact center to handle customer inquiries after hours!” Don’t worry—you don’t have to. While the digital age has made customers more demanding, it’s also provided easy access to customer service solutions via outsourcing. Today, it’s possible to cheaply and effectively outsource all of your after-hours contact center needs to professionals in Southeast Asia. Because wages in countries like Sri Lanka, India, and China are low and English proficiency is high (particularly in Sri Lanka), it’s possible to hire truly excellent contact center personnel without going way over budget. For a small initial investment, you can engender customer loyalty and thereby protect the future of your business for many years to come.