Slow response times are plain bad for business. If potential customers are kept waiting, they could lose interest in your product or service or move on to a competing company out of annoyance that you didn't get back to them quickly enough.
For many businesses, competition is fierce. The world is moving at a fast pace, especially since mobile devices make it so convenient to browse the internet, shop around and order something in just a few clicks.
Thus, making your lead response time as fast as possible is crucial.
What is lead response time?
Lead response time is the average time it takes your business to get back to hot leads – people already interested in your product or service – starting immediately from the point where they submit their enquiry or express their interest in your offering. Typically, this is when the prospect fills in a lead generation form, sends a text message or email, or makes a call. The term covers all types of customer communication channels.
How to calculate lead response time
The formula for calculating lead response time is very straightforward.
Lead response time = Time at which you respond to a lead - Time at which the lead expresses purchasing intent
For example, if a new lead sends you a message via your business's LinkedIn page at 10 am and a representative from your company replies to that message at 10.23 am, your lead response time will be 23 minutes.
Time at which you respond to a lead 10.23
Time at which the lead expresses purchasing intent - 10.00
Lead response time 00.23
Furthermore, you can calculate the average lead response time by adding the response times for all the leads you've received over a certain time period, divided by the total number of leads received.
Why improving speed to lead is crucial for lead response management
Lead generation doesn't come cheap when you factor in time, effort and money. With a slow lead response time, you will fail to manage your leads properly, and all your marketing efforts will have been for nothing. Improving lead response times makes the entire lead management process more effective in the following ways.
1. Boosts sales
One of the best channels to use for responding to sales enquiries is SMS because texts are delivered more or less instantly. And texting leads can achieve a click-through rate (CTR) of around 19% (whereas email only gets a CTR of 3.2%). A boost in sales is thus a direct, immediate, and most important positive effect of fast lead response time.
2. Builds credibility
Responding quickly to leads shows that your company is a) professional and b) takes its customers seriously. If your current inbound lead response time is two working days, that doesn't really scream, "We want your business!"
Being reachable, responsive and helpful is something that must be built into your sales process to establish credibility and trust with customers. It establishes that you are available for your customers and that they can depend on you to have their back, not just now but also in the future, whenever they need you.
3. Improves customer satisfaction
Prospective customers like being listened to – an immediate response ensures they feel they're not wasting their time or breath on a collaboration opportunity that will go nowhere. They will notice if your business is responsive or not. Having a positive first interaction is essential if you want someone to buy from your company.
4. Promotes customer loyalty
Going beyond customer satisfaction, a fast speed to lead time sets the foundation for customer loyalty – the holy grail for any business. If your lead becomes a customer, those first initial positive interactions can help steer them towards loyal behaviour.
Loyal customers not only come back and purchase from your business repeatedly but also enjoy using your product or service and drive new customers by recommending you. They'll interact with you on various channels, including social media, helping to boost brand awareness. Many customers who are happy with their vendors sometimes also agree to major favours, such as agreeing to record video testimonials and whatnot, without you having to pester them repeatedly.
How quickly should you contact inbound leads?
There has been quite a bit of research on this metric by various organisations, and the results have been very similar, if not exactly the same. Let's explore some lead response time stats and see why you should be worrying about meeting certain industry benchmarks and customer expectations.
According to the five-minute rule, it is recommended to respond to leads within the first five minutes because it improves lead conversion rates by 21 times.
One lead response time study found that 78% of new business goes to the first responder.
Another study states that 58% of customers are more likely to buy from a business if it caters to them within one minute of query initiation and less likely to recommend it to others if made to wait longer than that.
According to another report published in the Harvard Business Review, lead response time of under an hour increases the likelihood of conversion by 7 times compared to response times over one hour. Despite that, the study discovered that the average response time for most companies was over 40 hours.
Slow response times can increase churn rates by 15%.
These speed to lead statistics, both new and old ones, speak volumes about the importance of maintaining a good lead response time average. But the answer to this question also depends on a few other factors, making it a bit more nuanced.
The average or ideal lead response time for businesses in your industry can be different from that for other industries. The lead response time statistics mentioned above, for instance, all stress the urgency of following up with new leads. But according to a more recent study conducted in 2020 for the B2B industry, it was found that B2B companies take, on average, 13 hours to respond to new leads. And it doesn't seem to bother most companies much because since most of them took a long time, there was a low threat of competitors poaching these potential customers with faster response times.
Even the specific product or product type you sell determines how quickly you need to contact leads. For example, if you sell a perishable item or an item that people would need in an emergency, such as a fruit dessert or a special type of ointment, then it's important to answer enquiries ASAP before the customer hears from your competitors or it's too late for them.
Another factor to consider here is what time a customer is reaching out to you. Many businesses, especially smaller ones, can't afford to have communication lines open 24x7. So they announce their business hours to the public and make it clear that they will only be available to cater to customer queries during the advertised hours.
Ultimately, it is best to observe how different lead times bring about different results for your particular business in terms of the percentage of leads that successfully complete their journey through the sales funnel. But the consensus is that the shorter the lead response time, the better the conversion rate, customer experience, and satisfaction level.
How SMS marketing can improve your average lead response time
Integrating an SMS API into your CRM system (or other business platforms) can work wonders for your sales process and, specifically, your lead response times. The integration process is often straightforward – for instance, you can use Zapier to integrate Messente into over 5,000 apps.
Once the SMS platform is integrated, your lead follow-up attempts will improve significantly, benefiting from the following.
SMS messages are delivered at lightning-fast speeds. There are usually no delays unless your lead has their mobile phone switched off or on airplane mode. SMS service providers like Messente facilitate seamless two-way messaging. So if your prospects come back with more questions after your initial response, your sales teams can go back and forth rapidly, providing answers and alleviating any concerns.
When you incorporate SMS into your follow-up process, you're making it easy for customers to interact with your business. All they need is a mobile phone and access to a cellular network.
Over 90% of the global population owns some kind of cell phone – feature phone or smartphone. Both types of mobile phones come with in-built SMS messaging functionality and a native messaging app. And there aren't many places nowadays that mobile networks can't reach.
They don't need to download a third-party app, such as Messenger or some other instant messaging platform, or a branded app that you exclusively developed for your business.
SMS is easy for your business, too – you only need internet access and a virtual phone number (which you can apply for when you sign up to use an SMS API).
Pre-written text templates will improve your speed to lead time significantly. Using an SMS service, it's easy to set up text message templates for sales reps to use when replying to qualified leads. Here's a simple scenario: suppose a prospect wants to find out the cost of shipping a clothing item. You could create an SMS template that explains your shipping policy:
Thanks for asking about shipping, [Name]. We offer FREE worldwide shipping on clothing if you spend over €60. Otherwise, it's €6.99 worldwide, ETA of 5-7 days.
A sales rep can easily edit and personalise a template if they need to tweak it slightly. Here are some great tips on writing business text messages that resonate with leads and customers.
Using SMS autoresponders, you can send certain responses on autopilot – they're helpful when your best sales reps are busy, as they keep the conversation going between your business and prospects.
An example of an SMS autoresponder is a chatbot that uses scripts (and sometimes AI) to identify keywords and send back an appropriate response. For example, let's say that an inbound lead sends a general enquiry to a financial services provider, such as:
I'm interested in a loan but not sure of eligibility or interest rates. Can you help?
This really requires a dedicated response as it depends on the potential applicant's circumstances. However, an SMS chatbot could identify the keywords 'loan', 'eligibility' and 'rates' and send back a holding response like:
Thanks for messaging! One of our sales professionals will be in touch soon. While you're waiting, read our FAQs for info on loan eligibility and rates. [URL]
Help your sales team improve lead response times via SMS
Speed to lead is something that your business simply can't ignore if you want to boost new customer acquisition, improve customer satisfaction, and set the foundation for strong customer loyalty.
By integrating SMS into your lead management platform, your sales representatives can begin to achieve a good lead response time when they contact potential customers, especially if you create a set of holding response templates and make use of SMS automation tools.
Ready to improve your lead response time with SMS? Create a free account with Messente to see how our service can help.