March 17, 2022 | by Scott Bahr
Have you ever waited a week, two weeks, a month, for someone to respond to an email? I think it’s safe to say we all have. That feeling you get when wanting a response turns to pure annoyance because the other party does not seem to care or has forgotten to simply respond. Let’s dive into what responsiveness looks like in today’s professional world.
Recap – Being Nimble
We have written about this before, but it’s worthwhile to revisit responsiveness in more detail. Our earlier blog discussed being nimble, and how being a nimble organization impacts your level of responsiveness. In the current context, responsiveness as a part of everyday practice is evaluated more deeply, with relevance to market research measurement.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of thoughts on what it means to be responsive, regardless of the situation, your line of business, your relationship with colleagues, or your customers. What does it mean to be responsive? Is it a moving target? What about timing? Or type of response? All great questions, each of which could be the topic of an article, but for now, we will stick to why responsiveness needs to be a part of your approach, and that’s not just our opinion.
On occasion, I will revisit topics that I feel make for a valuable read, or maybe are just something that’s cathartic to have documented as a reminder. Responsiveness is one of those topics. It takes constant reminding ourselves to be responsive, yet still, we all have lapses. And that is reason enough to write down some thoughts on responsiveness.
A Key Driver of Customer Retention
Recently, we were reviewing the results of a survey, and as I was looking at some findings that showed improvement in responsiveness by a service-based organization, and how responsiveness among the service providers is consistently a key driver of customer retention. So there it was, quantified: we ask this question in surveys, and most market researchers will tell you that responsiveness is always an important measure, which is why as any organization or individual, responsiveness is a measure of how you are perceived.
The Worst Response Is No Response
To be clear, responsiveness is a sliding scale and is different based on issues such as complexity, time to formulate a response, urgency, and responsibility.
One of the things we can always do is to, at a minimum, is acknowledge the request.
In some cases, you by simply responding and saying that you have the request and will get back to them, with either the full response or when they can expect an answer, will allow the requester to tell you the urgency and feel like they are a part of the response. You may have also bought yourself some time, but more importantly, you’re managing the expectations on the other end.
The worst response is no response, especially if you find out that the response was needed quickly. Especially, if it’s something you can easily deliver, you will have a delighted customer. With a quick response, you are now a problem-solver.
Our approach in general is to try to answer questions and requests as quickly as possible.
By responding quickly – even if it’s not required to be done quickly – you first take care of something while it’s still fresh and top-of-mind. You also reduce the risk of having it fall between the cracks and get buried in the mix of other requests or project work.
It also communicates to your clients that they are important and you do not take them for granted. It is also rewarding at a personal level to know you’re being responsive, especially when your client expresses their appreciation for you taking the time to help them out. I am consistently surprised by how many times someone will tell me “wow, that was quick, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.” In some instances, my response is slower than I would have preferred, but by acknowledging their request and getting an answer, you have solved their problem.
Being Responsive Is Not Always Easy
Being responsive is not always easy for any number of reasons, but one of the situations that can provide the greatest amount of stress is when you feel as though the request is asking for something you are not always comfortable with. In this case, the client is at risk of misinterpreting the answer, product, or response. This happens on occasion and is never comfortable as you may end up in a conversation you did not want.
Making Tough Decisions
Early in my career, I had landed some work with a Fortune 100 company conducting an employee survey, as well as in-depth interviews (IDIs) with the sales management team. Once the work was completed, I presented the results to upper management, with a focus on addressing some of the problems and issues that were brought up, especially in the IDIs. The problem arose when one of the EVPs wanted to have the names of the respondents and our notes from their interviews.
At the start of the IDIs, we assured them that their responses would be anonymous due to the sensitive nature of topics we were discussing, and it was truly the only way to get them to be forthcoming with the information needed. In this instance, I could not break confidentiality and had to inform them that I could not ethically fulfill their request.
They continued to demand the information, threatening to hold back payment. Yet I could not provide them with this information, they refused to pay me for the IDIs, and I never heard from them again.
While this is a fairly extreme case, but it does illustrate that there are times when we are forced to make tough decisions on what we provide. We run the risk of alienating a client, but it is incumbent upon us to be able to clearly delineate the reasons behind our decisions.
Use Your Best Judgement
There have been times while working for other organizations that I have been asked to be less responsive, as some clients will take advantage of the situation. This can be true, but really, as a professional, you need to use your best judgment and determine how this decision impacts your relationship with the client. I also worked for someone who charged clients for every request, no matter how small or minor, which in the long run resulted in the loss of business.
The best tool we have is our judgment. Put yourself in the position of the client, and then respond accordingly. But always respond, and try to do so quickly and effectively. Make yourself clear, provide context, ask questions, and be a business partner. If you view your clients as business partners, responsiveness will fall in line.
Be A Problem Solver
In market research, we are looked upon as problem-solvers. Our businesses are formed to provide answers. If we are not looked upon as problem-solvers, then we are failing at managing our clients’ perceptions of who we are and what we do. We should know where to look for answers to our clients’ questions, and with that will come a lot more requests that at times are outside the scope of what we do, but by being responsive to our clients’ needs, we establish ourselves as experts in the category. We combine professionalism with being responsive i.e., professional responsiveness.
It’s a great time to be in market research.
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