April 15, 2024 #ContentChat Recap: Why Speed Is Essential For Winning and Retaining Customers

A Content Chat header image featuring an array of flowers behind a text overlay that says today’s topic is why speed is essential for winning and retaining customers, with guest Jay Baer.

“Businesses need to elevate speed and responsiveness on their list of internal priorities because their customers and prospects have already done so. Right now, there’s a disconnect between how fast we, as people, want businesses to operate and how fast most businesses are capable of operating. And we’ve got to close that gap in our organizations.”—Jay Baer

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika Heald is joined by Jay Baer, customer experience and business growth expert (and tequila enthusiast), to explore his Time To Win framework and study on the importance of speed in fulfilling customer needs. Erika and Jay explain why speed matters throughout the customer journey and how content can help set expectations and transform ordinary interactions into remarkable ones. 

Access Jay’s full Time To Win research findings and order your copy of the book today.

Watch the entire conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below.

Q1: How important is speed in terms of current buying cycles? What do customers expect?

Customers have always demanded speed, and it’s only accelerated since the pandemic. 

“It’s always been important in the pantheon of marketing and customer experience initiatives to be responsive to your customers and prospects. However, my observation coming out of the pandemic was that we care about our time more than we did before.”—Jay Baer

“Two-thirds of customers say that speed is as important as price.”—Jay Baer

“For email, I believe it’s almost half of all customers expect an email reply within four hours.”—Jay Baer

But their speed expectations depend on what they need. 

“It depends on the channel, because we do have different speed expectations by contact mechanism. It depends on the customer, because there are some differences in cohort, so your age does impact how patient you are. And then also type of business and what’s your issue? What do you need? If your house is on fire and you’re calling the fire department, that’s different than calling for fire insurance.”—Jay Baer

Q2: Where is speed most important in meeting your customers’ needs during their buyer’s journey?

Responsiveness is important in every customer interaction.

“In the research, we went through all the key customer journey points. [Things like] you’re looking for a price, comparing products, buying something, need an invoice, or getting a delivery.”—Jay Baer

“At least three-quarters of the time, customers say that for every one of those nodes, responsiveness is important or very important.”—Jay Baer

But speed is especially important in two cases. One: When there is a problem. 

“There are two scenarios where [speed] is even more important. One: If you have a problem. Something is not working as expected, so this is where customer experience becomes customer service. The best way to describe that is customer service starts when the customer experience fails. In situations like that where [the] thing is not working, you want a quicker response.”—Jay Baer

Two: If the next step requires scheduling.

“The other time where responsiveness gets really important is if whatever has to happen next actually has an implication on your time and your schedule. Anything you have to put on your calendar or set aside time.”—Jay Baer

Content marketing is vital for setting customer expectations and avoiding potential upset. 

“Yes, customers hate to wait. But the thing they hate second most is being under-informed. That is where content marketing comes in, is making sure that there is not an information asymmetry between the business and its customers.”—Jay Baer

Q3: How does content marketing, and a company’s numerous content and communication touchpoints, come into play when fulfilling customer requests effectively?

Content can turn an ordinary experience into an extraordinary one.

“I loved this example [Jay] used of how when you were doing your trek from the East Coast to the West Coast, one of the hotels you stayed at had a bespoke piece of content there. Hey, you’re a dog person, you have your dog with you, here are some things, some places, some resources for you. It’s such a small thing. But it’s a great example of highly personalized content delivered just in time, right when you need it.”—Erika Heald

“When we checked in, they gave us a bag. And in the bag was a little dog bowl, treat, and toy, which is really cool. The thing that was so interesting from a content standpoint is they had a printed-out guide to all kinds of pet stuff, hyperlocal. Closest vet, here’s the address, phone number, and directions. Closest dog park, closest pet store, etc. It was amazing. And that’s not a real heavy lift from a content perspective. But I’ve found in my long content marketing career that, in many cases, the light lifts have the biggest impact if you do it right.”—Jay Baer 

Content guides customers through their experience and sets the standard they can expect.

“We think about speed and responsiveness as an operational circumstance, and it largely is. But a lot of times you might get the operations right, but if you don’t use content to point out the fact that the operations are right to the customers, they will either not know what’s right or will assume it’s wrong. Because they’ve been taught to believe that usually, the customer experience is just okay.”—Jay Baer

Q4: What are the key elements of the ‘Time To Win’ framework?

Disclaimer: Organizations must achieve internal speed before they can deliver it to customers. 

“A lot of these things really apply internally. First and foremost., if you can’t get it dialed in internally, you’ll never get it dialed in externally. You can’t be fast externally until you’re fast internally.”—Jay Baer

The first piece of the framework should be done first. However, the rest of the elements can be done in any order.

“First piece of the framework, and this is the one you really should do first. Not all are sequential, but this is a foundational one that you should tackle first.”—Jay Baer

Perform a ‘Got It Audit.’

“Perform what I call a ‘Got It Audit.’ Got It Audit asks you to figure out how long it takes your customers to get it; to get whatever it is they need. So you go do some customer journey mapping and you say how long does it take to get a couch belt, or a delivery setup, or pay a bill. When you ask business leaders, how long does it take?”—Jay Baer 

“If you’re going to treat speed as a competitive advantage, you have to have real numbers, not just anecdotes. What the Got It Audit asks you to do is to do some analysis inside your organization and put real numbers around your key time milestones in the business, because only then can you optimize against them.”—Jay Baer

“From my experience, whether it’s agencies or internal content creation teams, frequently they have no idea how long it takes to do such a thing. So you get agencies just spitballing quotes for clients and losing money on things because they literally have no idea how long it takes.”—Erika Heald

Answer before they ask. 

“Second thing you can do is Answer Before They Ask. It’s very common that customers or prospective customers have questions. And content answers those questions in many cases, unless they’re calling into a service department. But we don’t really answer that many questions.”—Jay Baer

“The fastest you can possibly be is when you provide what people need before they have to request it.”—Jay Baer

“When you do you have a question and you can’t find the answer, and then you have to resort to emailing or calling, you’re already annoyed.”—Erika Heald

“We can use content, especially in the AI world when we get our data aligned, to be predictive. To look around corners and say we’re pretty sure this is what you’re gonna need. And the perception of how fast you are as an organization goes through the roof because they never even had to raise their hand.”—Jay Baer

Respond without answers.

“The third one will help you not just in your business, it will help you in your personal life. It’s called Respond Without Answers. Today, if somebody has a question or needs something from you and you can’t immediately answer it or provide it, we usually go look it up or ask accounting or Google it. And then once we’ve done that, we say, ‘here’s what you need’. Stop doing that.”—Jay Baer 

“The whole time you are looking it up, that entire gap of time that you’re figuring it out, the person who had the question is slowly freaking out. You’re working on it, but they don’t know that. They assume that you didn’t get it.”—Jay Baer

“Somebody needs something, and you don’t know the answer immediately? Say, ‘Thank you for the question. It was such a good question. I don’t know the answer immediately. I’m gonna look it up. And then once I get the answer, I’ll let you know.’”—Jay Baer

“All you’re saying is, ‘I got it.’ And the second that you say ‘I got it’, it takes it off their to-do list, and they put it on your to-do list. The psychological difference there is massive. Two good things happen. One: Their perception of how fast you are goes way up. And two: It actually buys you more time to respond.”—Jay Baer

“One of the things that we learned in the research is time to reply is more important to people than time to resolution. Because time to reply carries a psychological burden, not just an informational burden. Once you know that you’re going to get an answer eventually, it takes the pot off boil.”—Jay Baer

Set speed expectations.

“The fourth one is to set speed expectations. If the customer thinks it’s going to be faster than you can deliver, whose fault is that? Your fault.”—Jay Baer

“You have to make sure that you are overdelivering on that particular piece of it. It’s not just time/speed expectations. It’s around any type of operational scenario.”—Jay Baer

Close uncertainty gaps.

“The next one is to close uncertainty gaps. Uncertainty gap is the difference between what you know about your business and what the customer knows about the business. Some industries have naturally large uncertainty gaps. Financial services and healthcare are two noteworthy examples. But all business have them.”—Jay Baer

“Again, this is more of a generational era issue. Older people lived in a time with great uncertainty, and we were totally okay with it. Because we had no way to solve for it.”—Jay Baer

“All these uncertainty gaps are being closed all around us. Domino’s Pizza Tracker—a perfect example. I’m getting push notifications. ‘They’re putting mushrooms on your pizza.’ ‘They’re putting cheese on your pizza.’ ‘The pizza is in the car.’”—Jay Baer

“Any time that you know more than your customer knows, you’re at risk with that customer. You’ve got to over-communicate to them with content.”—Jay Baer

“One of the things that business leaders say to me when I talk about this, they say, ‘Jay, we don’t want to annoy our customers by giving them so much content.’ To which I always say: “Oh, I know what you mean. I’m sure it’s super common that customers call in and say, ‘please stop informing me.’”—Jay Baer

“Content creators read every word. Because they wrote every word. So, of course, if you’re going to send a daily email, a weekly email, whatever, the person who creates that is going to be like, ‘That seems like an awful lot of content.’ Guess what? Your customers or your prospects are reading every fifth email or every third sentence. Of course it feels like a lot to you, because this is your job. This is like 1% of their life at best. They’re skimming it at best. If it feels to you, as a professional content creator, that you are over-communicating, you are communicating just the right amount.”—Jay Baer

Offer a fast pass.

“The last one is a real moneymaker. Easy way to make money in literally any business. It’s called Offer A Fast Pass. There are fast passes increasingly all around us. Disney has the Genie Plus. TSA PreCheck is a fast pass. Clear is a better version of a fast pass. You pay more to wait less.”—Jay Baer 

“We tested this in the research. One in four customers will pay as much as 50% more to not wait.”—Jay Baer

“We would get big companies come to Convince and Convert and want a content strategy. And me, being an idiot, would say we’ve got two in front of you, so we can’t work on your strategy until July. And now I’m like, well, that was crazy. If you’re in that much of a hurry, we’ll be like, great, for an extra 20%.”—Jay Baer

“Let’s say Company A was going to be next. Company C comes along and says we have to have a strategy right away, or our CMO is going to be fired. You go to Company A, who you gotta bump three weeks, and ask if it would be okay if we delayed your project for three weeks, but we’re going to take 10% off your price.”—Jay Baer

Jay explains why the book and framework is called Time To Win:

“The reason the book is called Time To Win is because we are in this era where customers value time more than ever. Everything we’ve talked about here today, you’re going to do. Your customers are going to demand it, you’re not going to have a choice. It’s just whether you do it now or later. The companies that start doing this now are going to have a 24- to 30-month headstart, maybe less with AI, and maybe a two-year window of opportunity to outperform competitors.”—Jay Baer

“51% of customers will hire whomever contacts them first, regardless of price. Knowing that, why wouldn’t you make responsiveness a huge part of your company’s differentiator? And those who do so, who lean into the things we talked about in the framework, are going to have an opportunity to meaningfully and demonstrably outperform competitors in the category. That’s why this is the time to actually win, and you use time to do so.”—Jay Baer

Q5: What tools or resources can help businesses become more agile in meeting customer requests?

Jay recommends timetoreply to optimize your email responsiveness. 

“One of the tools I’ve been working with a lot on the book tour is called timetoreply. It’s a ride-along app that syncs with whatever you use for email. Based on some things you set in your deal, number one, it tells you and potentially your manager how long it takes for you to respond. It pings you if, for whatever reason, it’s taken longer than usual for you to respond or for the customer to respond to you. And then it actually prioritizes your inbox based on how long it’s taken between pings and even who is this customer. It’s essentially an email responsiveness optimization tool.”—Jay Baer

Q6: What misconceptions about the importance of speed do leaders have?

Too many business leaders don’t realize how responsiveness equals revenue. 

“The universal problem is that people don’t understand that today responsiveness equals revenue. What I hear is we’re as fast as we can be. To which I say, you’re as fast as you choose to be. And the reason you don’t choose to emphasize speed and your organization: You don’t understand that it creates dollars.”—Jay Baer

Q7: Can you share an example of a time when speed was important to you as a customer? 

Jay shares how his “Agave-fueled zeal” for new shoes offers a lesson on setting expectations with customers. 

“I bought this super cool pair of leather sneakers. I get to the confirmation page after checking out, and it says, ‘Thanks very much for your order. We’re going to start making your shoes.’ So that’s when my first eyebrow went up. ‘And you should receive them in approximately eight weeks.’ And that’s when the second eyebrow went up.”—Jay Baer

“In my Agave-fueled zeal, I had not understood, based on this website, that the shoes were bespoke. I assumed that I would get them in a day. I was gonna wear those on Saturday. I guess now it will be Saturday two months from now.”—Jay Baer

“Information asymmetry really makes people unhappy because we’re conditioned now to always know the answer. You can just ask Siri. You can ask Alexa. Not having the answer is very off-putting and anxiety-producing.”—Jay Baer

“Every Wednesday [the company] sent me an email that said ‘Jay, it’s week three. We’re now building the laces for your shoes. Here’s how we do this, and here’s a video of Manuel at our factory in Argentina showing you how he goes about this process.’ Next Wednesday, it’s step four. ‘Please meet Emmanuella, she’s in charge of making the leather laces for the shoes.’”—Jay Baer 

“It was a documentary film on custom sneaker making played out one email at a time. I didn’t want it to end. Take all the time you want! That’s how you turn content into a salve for delay. It’s not about how fast you are, it’s about how fast does it feel. And content solves that.”—Jay Baer

Disappointing updates should be given promptly so customers have time to process the news. 

“I love that example. I have the same example with Joy Bird, except we got to the week it was supposed to be building my table, and they said, ‘Oops, we actually can’t source the lumber.’ But you’ve been sending me all of these lovely emails for four weeks. And now I don’t get a table.”—Erika Heald

“I bought a custom sofa online from this company called Monarch. It was going to take, they told me, eight weeks. Well on week 15, still no sofa. And it was radio silence for four months. Couldn’t get ahold of anybody, emails unreturned, no help. Finally, after much endeavoring on my part, I got ahold of this woman, Genevieve. ‘I’m terribly sorry. It’s been taking us about 16 weeks to make custom sofas.’ I said, ‘Okay, how long has that been the case.’ And she said about a year and a half. To which I said, oh no, why does it still say eight weeks on your website? To which she said: We don’t want people to stop placing orders.”—Jay Baer

Q8: How can businesses assess and prioritize their opportunities to better serve their customers?

Customers experience a range of emotions if you are faster or slower than they expect.

“When you are slower than customers expect in any context, the emotional changes in the customer are amazing. You feel sad, disrespected, unhappy, and unlikely to shop with them again. A lot of really negative consequences. And then conversely, when you’re faster than customers expect, it’s like I feel respected, happy, loyal, and likely to spend more money.”—Jay Baer

“Whatever you’re using to measure CSAT, put in a specific question around responsiveness, like on a scale of zero to 10.”—Jay Baer

And AI-based startups will usher in a new era of speed.

“If you believe customer expectations around speed are escalated now, just you wait. Because in every business, it doesn’t matter what business you are, there is eventually going to be an AI-based startup, which is going to do whatever it is that you do way faster.”—Jay Baer

There is an optimal response time for every customer touchpoint. The challenge is learning that time and prioritizing your touchpoints. 

“You should probably be faster than you are pretty much all through your business. That’s true. But a lot of this isn’t so much about raw speed. It’s about expectation management. It turns out, there’s this principle that we discovered, called ‘the right now.’ The right now is the perfect amount of elapsed time in every customer touchpoint. Not too slow, but also not too fast, because you can be too fast. The right now is slightly faster than customers expect, that’s the perfect Goldilocks zone.”—Jay Baer

“A big part of speed is actually expectation management. And how are expectations set and managed? Almost always with content. Because if you don’t set the expectations, we live in an era where your customers will always expect things to be instantaneous. If they’re not going to be instantaneous, then you have to content your way into that relationship.”—Jay Baer

If something has gone wrong, alert your customers ASAP. 

“If something’s going to run aground, you have to get in front of that with content. And because we care about time more than ever, this is more important than ever.”—Jay Baer

“If you’re going to be late, for whatever reason, they should have let you know like two weeks before, or 10 days. You would have been so much happier if you would have gotten early notice. And this is where content is really important, especially with the younger consumers, you have to tell them why. You can’t just say I told you it would be three weeks, it’s going to be four, sorry. You have to say here’s a video from our CEO explaining the situation, or here’s a standard piece of content with a flowchart that shows where this process is hung up.”—Jay Baer

“You have to have your content team put together the library of ‘we weren’t able to make it happen when we said we could, and here are the reasons why that’s the case.’”—Jay Baer

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