There’s no doubt that in the virtual world, consumers and customers are becoming more impatient and more demanding. Customers expect businesses to respond to them quickly, if not immediately—and it’s putting a lot of pressure on small businesses.

Here’s a closer look at what customers expect from businesses, customer responsiveness trends, and how to be more responsive to customers to boost customer loyalty and strengthen your brand.

Business owners are feeling pressed to deliver rapid service and customer support. The majority reported feeling like they had an hour or less to respond to a potential customer before the prospect moves on to a competitor.

In fact, one-third of end users in a recent study expect small businesses to respond to them within an hour to earn their business. And over half of customers will go elsewhere if a business takes six hours or more to respond. It’s no surprise that the No. 1 thing customers say would improve the customer experience is “faster response times.”

In a fast-paced world, what tools are small business owners using to communicate with customers?

How small businesses respond to customers

What tools are small business owners using to communicate with customers?

  • Phone calls: 89% | e-mail: 86% | messaging and collaboration tools: 54% | social media: 49%

But companies often fall short when it comes to customer communication. More than 6 in 10 companies do not respond to emails. A whopping 90% of companies do not acknowledge to the customer that their email has been received. Even if they do respond, 97% of companies never follow up to see if the customer was satisfied with the response.

Seven ways to be more responsive to customers

When it comes to how quickly you need to respond to customers and potential customers, there’s only one answer: as fast as possible. How can you be more responsive to customers? Try these tips.

1. Ask your customers what they want –A survey of your existing customers can show you which customer service channels they prefer. For example, do they want the ability to make appointments on your website or from within your email communications? Do they prefer to provide feedback through surveys, or from virtual or in-person checkpoint meetings?

2. Manage customer expectations –While you should strive to be as responsive as possible on each communication channel, you can also guide customers to the channel that will best serve them. For example, at Levvel we’ve recently adopted Calendly, an efficient tool that integrates with Outlook to help our clients and employees book meetings without the need to constantly email back and forth to find an open time slot.

3. Develop a process –Set benchmarks for how quickly your team needs to respond to customer inquiries or customer service questions, and make sure everyone knows these goals. Benchmarks may vary from channel to channel; customers may expect a faster response on Twitter, for instance, than they would on email.

4. Educate your employees –Make sure your team knows how to answer customer service questions. You can create an online knowledge base with answers to frequent questions. This also helps ensure that your employees are being consistent in what they tell your customers.

5. Provide self-service options –Something as simple as a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section on your website can answer many of your customers’ questions without the need to contact you directly. A company that sells to business customers could offer regular customers the option to have sales material sent to them instead of having to speak to their sales contact.

6. Use technology –This can be as simple as setting up your Facebook page to send instant replies or using a social media-management app to track all your social media channels in one place to get alerts on customer comments or questions. You can also implement customer service software to automate and streamline customer service. They can manage tasks such as prioritizing customer calls, answering customer questions via chatbots, and enabling customer self-service.

7. Stay human –In the virtual world, clients’ expectations have changed simply because they think you’re more accessible.While speed is of the essence, rushing too quickly to help a customer can also cause problems. Your employees must remember to listen to customer issues and make sure you really hear what customers are saying. No matter how much technology and automation you implement, it’s the human touch that really makes the difference in being truly responsive to your customers.

~Cam Smith, VP business Development, Canada West – Levvel Inc. Reach out to

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