We live in a high-speed world these days. But it wasn’t always like this. It used to be that we’d stand in line at the bank waiting to cash our paycheck and get some cash back. Or we’d send someone a fax that could take two or three minutes to complete. Even renting a movie required us to drive to the local Blockbuster store hoping the latest cool movie was in stock and available.

If you go back a few more decades to 1911, we’d learn that the first transcontinental flight across the U.S. took 70 stops and 49 days to complete. Just 12 years later in 1923 the first non-stop transcontinental flight took just 27 hours to complete. And now, this year in February, a United flight from Los Angeles to Newark took just 3 hours and 46 minutes.

The World is Speeding Up

Yes, life is moving faster and faster. Twelve years ago a research team out of the U.K. concluded that the world was speeding up. According to Richard Wiseman who headed the study, “Pace around the world is 10% faster than ever before. That’s not great for our health. As people speed up in their lives, they are not eating properly, exercising, or seeing friends and family. All these things can lead to all kinds of things, especially heart attacks.”

People who walk fast are also more likely to speak and eat quickly, wear a watch and get impatient, he says. They don’t like to sit still, sit in traffic or wait in queues. The professor believes the increased pace of life is driven by technology and the way people are constantly in touch with each other. Consider that this study is now 12 years old. We can well assume that the pace of life has accelerated even more over those years.

Another researcher at the Rand Corporation, Kathryn “Casey” Bouskill, suggests we may be in the throws of a period of societal hurry sickness. You know that feeling – you rush home from work to flip open your computer, you reach for your cell phone as your eyes open in the morning to see if you have texts or to see how many people liked or shared your Instagram story. In German, this feeling like life is speeding ahead is called: Eilkrankheit, “hurry sickness.” She argues that the speed of our society will continue to accelerate well into the period 2040 and the implications are considerable.

What Does this Mean for Consumer Marketing?

Ok, so life is moving faster and faster. But what’s the implication for my business, for me, you should be asking. Well the concept of immediacy is clearly a consequence of the pace of society. As our society speeds up across numerous dimensions, business owners – you and me alike – will need to continue to assess how we’re doing in terms of meeting the immediacy needs of our customers, clients, patients. This impacts everything from speed of checkout to crafting an overall consumer marketing strategy.

Consumer marketing research suggests that today’s modern consumer has a pretty high bar in terms of how quickly we can respond to their inbound inquiries. According to a study conducted last year, 82% of consumers expect an immediate response from a sales or marketing organization. If it’s the customer support or customer servicer organization, 90% of consumers expect an immediate response. Immediate can mean as few as 10 minutes, yes 10 minutes. This expectation puts tremendous challenges on any organization – large or small. Further, as we in society have shifted to a social media world, much of what we can learn in that world has real world (not saying social media is not the real world) implications. In fact, according to Sprinklr, 80% of consumers use social media to engage with brands. So marrying these two themes, consumers using social media to communicate with businesses are probably expecting a response in a very timely fashion.

While those are some serious expectations in terms of response time, research indicates that fully 33% – one third – of customer complaints are never even answered. That seems unimaginable in today’s world of modern commerce. What business or organization wouldn’t seek to answer every single customer complaint? After all, the customer who complains is way more likely to tell 10 or 20 friends about a negative customer experience than they are to tell 10 or 20 friends about a positive experience. Yes, that does stink, but it is the way we’re wired as a society. So first things first – make sure you’re responding to as many complaints as humanly possible. The benefits of responsive answering increases customer advocacy by as much as 25% while being unresponsive can decrease customer advocacy by as much as 50%.

When Just Responding Isn’t Enough

So far we’ve concluded that answering customer inquiries and complaints should be a very high priority, a key element of modern consumer marketing. But just answering them isn’t enough really. Sorry folks, but how quickly complaints are answered is extremely important. Fully sixty percent of customers who complain in social media expect a response within one hour – yes, 60 minutes. But guess what, the average response time for most businesses to respond to customer complaints in social media is 300 minutes – 5 hours. And if you’re using email as a communication platform, the average business takes 44 hours to respond via email – almost two days. It is obvious companies or business owners operating at the average will soon find themselves without any customers complaints because they’ll be out of customers.

According to the same Sprinklr research, customers are likely to reach a brand across as many as six or seven social platforms – think Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to name the biggest ones. This means that for consumer marketing purposes, we need to monitor as many of the social platforms as possible. The big four would be my recommendation since these probably account for more than 90% of the inbound customer inquiries or complaints. When thinking about responding in a timely fashion, it’s helpful to learn that when businesses do respond quickly and effectively via social platforms, customers are willing to spend 20% more with that brand and 30% are more likely to recommend that brand to their friends. The rub of using social media as a response platform is that those consumers are even more demanding in terms of immediacy.

In fact, 52% of consumers indicated that what frustrates them the most when dealing with customer support is tightly tied to immediacy — waiting on hold and slow response times. Research indicates what challenges most business organizations are the operating silos that affect them all. Certainly in large organizations silos are common place. But even in small and medium sized organizations silos can develop and impede the ability to deliver both an immediate and helpful response.

You might be asking yourself if delivering an accurate, friendly, and truthful response is beneficial. Certainly operating on these attributes is essential because they tie to your business’ drive to be transparent and authentic, but guess what, speed trumps them all.

What’s Driving Immediacy?

So what’s driving this immediacy craziness? Large companies out there continue to set the high expectations for customers. For instance, Amazon has been leading the charge to deliver things faster and faster. It used to be consumers were amazed by two-day delivery service. But Amazon knows or certainly believes that faster is better and now they’re pushing to deliver many of their packages within 24 hours or even more quickly. And Amazon Prime members have higher expectations than their non-prime peers. According to research done by Edison Alix Partners, the maximum acceptable time for free shipping delivery for prime members is 3.8 days while non-members are okay with 4.5 days.

Even at the airports we see time and immediacy come into play. There’s the general security line, then there’s the TSA Pre line and now in many airports there’s the Clear line. Each line offering a faster, smoother passage through security. As life speeds up, consumer marketing needs to focus on ways be immediate as well.

How Can I Address the Need for Immediacy on Social Media & Beyond?

So everywhere we go, companies, businesses, and institutions are figuring out ways to deliver on the modern consumer’s incessant need for speed and immediacy. So that means we as business owners need to be mindful of these demands and adjust our operating practices to be sure that we’re staying ahead of our competitors. Here are some quick questions that can help you assess how you’re doing to raise your immediacy quotient.

  • Are you responding to your customers within four hours?
  • Are you moving away from using voicemail to communicate with your customers?
  • Are you using text or social media to respond to your customers?
  • Are you training your staff to prioritize speed of response over getting all the answers before they respond – it’s better to respond to a customer inquire quickly with partial information than to respond slowly with complete information?
  • Are you replacing or augmenting contact forms on your website with chat – either live or chat bots?
  • Are you asking your customers for a review or satisfaction score immediately upon finishing a customer interaction?
  • Are you responding to negative reviews within hours of them being posted?

And just wait. With the next generation of wireless networks deploying soon – known as 5G – our connectivity speeds will increase to new, amazing levels. While this will offer businesses a host of exciting opportunities, 5G will also raise, again, the customer expectations for even more immediacy and speed. So do yourself a favor, get started today finding areas within your business where you can raise your responsiveness. If you do it now, when 5G comes blazing through town, you might just find yourself and your business ahead of the game.

One more thing. If you’d like to see if you’re operating your personal life at breakneck speeds, take this cool little quiz here and see your score. Maybe it is time slow down and smell the roses.

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