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Fastest finger first – the role of enquiry response time in conversion

We’re continuing our series on alternative indicators of growth, looking at whether any ‘vanity’ metrics are correlated with or predictive of profitable growth, based on the work we do with our clients to create a single customer view across their various marketing and sales data sources.

 

Today we are focusing on enquiry response time – how many times have you filled in an enquiry form on a website and felt like you were just shouting into the void?

 

Our conclusion is that this is one of the most impactful levers for conversion rate optimisation in B2B and long sales cycle B2C, that almost always works to accelerate customer acquisition.

 

Enquiry response time can increase conversion rate

Why is enquiry response time important?

 

At the start of most considered purchase journeys – perhaps for a first-time purchase, or one where getting it right is particularly important - purchasers are doing some form of research into potential providers & their propositions. For both B2B and B2C purchases, this will typically involve some combination of online searching and seeking recommendations from trusted contacts, then a review of the suggested providers. Think about the last time you looked at booking a holiday, obtaining a mortgage, or buying a new piece of software at work.

 

For those journeys where there isn’t a ‘buy online’ option, purchasers will often then contact a handful of providers (previous research I’ve done suggests between 2 – 5 options). In each business on the receiving end of these enquiries, I’ve seen that conversion rate is highly correlated with the speed of response.

 

If you imagine your own purchase journeys you can rationalise this effect - as consumers we infer that those who respond more slowly are less keen on our business and/or less able to service it (this of course may not be right but is a common heuristic).

 

We were recently able to demonstrate this with a Coppett Hill client, where we saw that conversion rate for enquiries responded to within 3 hours was 3x that for enquiries responded to after 24 hours.

 

Enquiry response time correlation with conversion rate

This effect was also visible when we looked at the time of day enquiries were received. Our client was receiving enquiries from international locations but operated a sales team with UK hours, and as a result conversion rate dropped materially when the sales team were not online.

 


This insight led to our client introducing much tighter SLAs for the speed of response, adjusting their opening hours, and adjusting the times that they were running paid digital marketing to generate enquiries. We were also able to combine this with some work on their Ideal Client Profile so that they are prioritising responding to the ‘best fit’ enquiries – not all enquiries are created equal.

 

What does this look like from a prospects’ perspective?

 

To Illustrate this, we’ve tested response times from a group of five ISO 27001 certification providers – who sell a mix of software and services to help businesses to achieve this security certification.


We chose this group as this is something that Coppett Hill is genuinely considering, but also because the five providers we sampled have Private Equity investment so have had some level of external scrutiny of their sales processes.

 


 

We made these enquiries at the start of the business day, and captured the complexity of the website enquiry form, whether we received an automated acknowledgement and the time it took to receive a phone call (the promised response in all cases).


The fastest provider called us back after 43 minutes, whereas the slowest response took nearly 6 hours to respond, and one didn’t call us at all. This illustrates that even in a mature, competitive category there is still scope for improvement - we could feasibly have already booked 3 demos by the time we heard from the Provider D, and we would never choose Provider E in this example.

 

One caveat is that the responses we received might reflect that we were de-prioritised based on being less of an Ideal Client Profile fit. Interestingly just one of the providers offered the opportunity on their website to immediately book a demo rather than requiring a call back from sales.

 

How should I think about enquiry response time for my business?

 

Producing this type of analysis can be hard – in the above client example we linked website form fills in the marketing automation platform, the timing of outbound calls from the telephony system and prospect conversation status from the client’s CRM.


But once you have this, the typical dimensions to look include:

  1. The timing of calls – evenings, weekends etc.;

  2. The source of enquiries;

  3. Any customer attributes, for example whether they are a fit with your Ideal Client Profile; and

  4. Response time by salesperson or location.

 

One of the most important things to keep in mind is the Flaw of Averages. You should look at the outliers – your average response time might be 45 minutes, but how many clients wait more than 1 hour, or more than 3 hours for an individual response?

 

You could also think about how automation can offer some protection e.g. mentioning your average response time next to the enquiry form on your website, sending an automated acknowledgement email which sets some expectations (perhaps different versions for whether someone has submitted an enquiry within your office hours or not), or maybe even adding an appointment booking tool to your website.

 

If you have an enquiry response step in your customer journey, I’d recommend testing this and looking at how you can increase response times to increase conversion and accelerate customer acquisition. You could also test this yourself with a mystery shopping exercise.

 

If you’d like to discuss how you can join your marketing data sources to understand these relationships for your business, please Contact Us.


All views expressed in this post are the author's own and should not be relied upon for any reason. Clearly.

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