If you own a home improvement contracting business, you already know how to hustle. But there’s one way you may be letting potential customers down and losing good business: by being too slow to respond to new leads.

Online leads are a powerful source of new business, but only if you have follow-through and the ability to act fast. Leads coming from online contact forms and lead generation services tend to go cold fast, and that window is growing more narrow as technology continues to improve business response times.

To stand out from the crowd, you’ve got to be able to get on the phone and call. And if that means organizing new workflows or hiring new employees, it may be time to make that investment. Need more convincing? Here’s what the data says about lead response time—and how you can improve the call-back times for your business.

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Customers Expect Fast Turnaround

In an ideal world, leads would wait patiently while you finished laying that tile. But that’s just not realistic. Homeowner expectations are influenced by the consumer world, where you can instantly chat with a customer service representative at your bank or cable provider, 24/7.

Customer service outsourcing platform Arise researched the matter and found that 37% of surveyed customers expect businesses to respond within an hour. Less than 20% said they’d be satisfied with a response time over 24 hours. And if past trends continue to hold true, those time frames will only get narrower. You’ve got to be fast if you want to score new customers!

A Fast Response Time Sets You Apart from Competitors

The internet is a big place. If leads can’t get the answers they need from you, they’ll just go somewhere else—most likely to your competitors. Don’t assume that the customers who reach out to you are set on using your services. It’s just as likely that they’re using the contact forms on your competitors’ websites as well.

Of course, if you’re using a lead generation service, the likelihood of another competitor swooping in is increased. You’re probably not the only one with access to those leads. With lead generation, it’s all about the survival of the fittest—or in this case, fastest.

The good news, though, is that your competitors are probably also pretty slow to the draw. When Harvard Business Review studied business response times, they found that many weren’t able to hit that first-hour benchmark. Only about 37% reached out within 60 minutes. Twenty-four percent took over 24 hours, and a surprising 23% never responded at all!

The big takeaway here is that if you can reduce your initial response time to one hour or less, you’ll beat out about two-thirds of businesses. And that will definitely give you a reputation for being outstanding in your field!

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Leads Are More Likely to Convert When You Respond Quickly

Response time directly correlates to lead conversion success rates. Study after study confirms that the faster you answer an inquiry, the more likely you are to land a sale. According to the research, if you can reach customers within one hour of contacting you, you’re seven times more likely to qualify the lead—i.e., set an appointment—than if you call back in the second hour.

It makes sense when you think about it. Homeowners lead busy lives—it’s easy for other commitments to crowd their thoughts and distract them from your business. Don’t let your business drop off their radar. Get out in front of them and get projects rolling as fast as you can. It’s all about hustle!

Tips to Improve Your Response Time and Lead Conversion

Okay, you’ve heard the why—but what about the how? If a fast response time was easy, you’d already be doing it. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways you can simplify the process and get better lead conversion rates.

  • Use Technology. An automated response is a lot better than no response at all. Use auto-responders to send an instant email to customers who complete online contact forms. That will buy you a little time if you’re not able to call right away.
  • Delegate. Phone calls are very effective for converting new leads, but you probably don’t have a lot of spare time to spend on the phone. If you’re having trouble personally responding to leads yourself, hire a call center employee or administrative assistant who can help qualify leads and set appointments. If it helps you get more business, it’s worth it!
  • Follow Up. It may take another try before you’re able to connect with your lead. If you get voicemail the first time, call them again after a few hours. Don’t trust that leads will return your message—many appointments are booked with a second follow up call to potential customers.
  • Take the Long View. You never know when a lead will convert—maybe homeowner who turned you down yesterday will decide they actually need your services two months from now. Treat every homeowner you talk to with the kindness and consideration you’d show to a potential hot lead, and you may find customers are crawling out of the woodwork to work with you!