We live in a world where we are expected to constantly be available and able to respond immediately. How many times have you called someone to see if they got your text? Was it because you were waiting for a response and surely, because there was not immediate response, you had to call and make sure they saw it so you can get the response you need? I’ve done it. I see it all the time. A bride will email me then call me an hour later because her time table requires a response right away. It’s the environment that we’re in. It’s annoying at times. But there’s something to be said about a person who is responsive.
Brides want to feel important. They don’t want to be just another bride. They want to be the only bride or at least feel that way. They can also be pretty impatient and I believe that there is a direct correlation between the time you take to get back with them and the amount of trust they place in you as a vendor. It’s not fair, for sure. We are all very busy and sometimes just can’t get to it. But its true.
I ran into two situations recently where I was much more responsive than a competitor….and I won. I won about $16,000 worth of business. The first was a corporate customer who called my competitor during normal business hours and had to leave a message on their voice mail. She waited for a response for about two hours and then started looking at other caterers. She reached out to that caterer because she was referred to them by a coworker. She reached out to me because she found me online after growing impatient with the lack of a response. I answered the phone, talked through the event with her, and put together a proposal for her in the same day. Two days later the order was approved and she still hadn’t heard back from my competitor! “Oh, and by the way,” she said, ” I’m doing the same thing next month… can you put something together for me for that too?” She has told me that I will forever have her business.
The second situation was a frantic phone call from a mother-of- the-bride. Her daughter had a personal relationship with one of the sales girls for this competing company. They had spoken and discussed ideas but were still waiting on a price….2 weeks after their initial meeting! She wanted to get something set and felt like the other caterer had just brushed them aside. She had a quote, with prices, from me that afternoon. She had a tasting scheduled for the following week. We narrowed down the menu and I presented a price they were happy with. She booked the following week…and still hadn’t heard from the other caterer.
There are a couple things going on here. This competitor is a great caterer. Their food, style, and staff are all top notch. But, for whatever reason, they are slow to respond. Maybe it’s because they’re so busy taking care of the business right before them…I think we’ve all been in that situation. Maybe they weren’t convinced that these situations would materialize into lucrative business. Maybe they lack a system in which they are able to quickly put together proposals and pricing and therefore it just takes a little while…I don’t know. But in both situations, they were given the first shot and missed and I was there to pick up the ball make something happen. I won because I was responsive.
I’m not trying to be boastful. I’m just convinced that my ability to respond quickly is what helped them to trust me and stop waiting on the other company.
So how are we able to be so responsive? First, we have a system. It’s not necessarily a formal system but it’s something we’ve figured out through the years and it is very much intentional these days. There are always at least two people in the office answering phones and putting together quotes. If one of us is swamped, we share what we have with the other for the sake of getting back to the potential client quickly. We are open and honest with the client about the timetable. I always give them a window of when to expect something back which is greater than what I think it will take. I say window because I try to avoid hard deadlines. I’ll say to expect something “this afternoon if possible or first thing in the morning” or “by Monday or Tuesday.” This give me flexibility as well as an opportunity to exceed their expectations by getting back with them sooner if possible. If I know I’m going to fail to meet a deadline, I reach out and ask them if that’s ok. Most of the time it’s just fine and they are appreciative of the communication and understanding of the delay. Sometimes they really need something right away and that feedback will help me re-prioritize what I have to do.
Something else that helps in communicating and responding to prospectsis the gmail “Canned Response” tool. I have created pre-written responses to common scenarios so that they can be inserted quickly into an email as needed. If someone wants general information, I send them general information then follow up in a couple days. If someone wants to schedule a meeting, I send them an email about available meeting times and then follow up in a couple days. This helps me be much more productive, attentive, and responsive. This is done on purpose and with the sole purpose of beating my competitors out of the gate with communication, information, and pricing…and it works!
What challenges do you face in being responsive to brides? What is your response system like? I’d love to hear about it!
Featured image by Ian Lamont