As my company designs, develops and manages websites for small businesses, I am often asked for advice and tips. One of the simplest pieces of advice and also the most important is to answer email promptly. If you have a contact form on your site or even just an email link, people are looking for immediate responses. I tell people if at all possible answer within a day. I know, many of you are saying to yourselves, DUH! But the truth is many small businesses take days to respond and many times never even reply. To me this is like a guy coming into your store, putting a purchase on the counter and you just flat out ignore the customers existence. You wouldn’t do that in your brick and mortar store, so don’t do it online. The same principals should apply.
If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends.
If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.
If you can’t answer promptly, then remove the form and the email link from your site. Let people know that they should call. I think it defeats much of what people are looking for going to your website, but still preferable to ignoring them. Another alternative is to have an autoresponder telling them you will be calling back and tell them to call if they require immediate attention.
Bottom Line: Responding to customer’s email is typically the first experience people have with your company. Make it a positive one and you may begin a relationship which will hopefully be long and profitable.