Let’s imagine you want to go on holiday. You walk into your local mall and find a travel company. You speak with the salesperson and their response is that they will get back to you in 48 hours.

Now let’s consider the same scene, but the salesperson sits you down and helps you immediately, provides you with some prices and options, and offers to get more information for you in the next couple of hours.

Who wins the business?

Despite what most businesses think, the decision tends to be based more on the speed of response and quality of service than it is on price.

In the scenario above, according to various studies, the sale will tend to go to the first company that responded (with a meaningful response) 70% of the time.

The above scenario was set in a physical environment where there may have been 2 to 5 travel companies all situated in the same mall. Imagine how competitive things get in the online world where there are 10s, 100s or in some cases even 1000s of competitors that your potential client could engage with. And the truth is that the majority of travel enquiries start online these days. 

You need to be fast.

The above scenario was also a B2C request. There tends to be more emphasis on responding quickly in B2C markets than B2B markets, but why should B2B customers not be given the same priority? After all, B2B contracts are typically higher value and in the corporate travel space, if handled correctly, they will be repeat customers. These B2B repeat contracts create high lifetime value customers that increase the value of your travel business.

So, does your business respond like a tortoise or a hare?

There are two response times that your travel business should be tracking: average first response time (or initial response time) and average overall response time.

Average First Response Time – the average time it takes you to reply to the first email in a new conversation.

Average Overall Response TIme – the average time it takes you to respond to any email reply.

The Average First Response Time is an important metric as this is typically for new business and this is where you beat your competitor to the punch, build trust (“they responded quickly, they must know what they are doing…and care about winning my business!”) and close the sale.

The Average Overall Response Time is especially important in B2B relationships where a customer may continue to use an existing email thread and your key account managers should continually be responding promptly to the customer ensuring that their questions are answered and that they are providing good customer service.

Managers are often faced with a complaint from a long term customer saying “my account manager hasn’t responded to me”. That causes friction in the relationship and can lead to customer churn. Lose a few large corporate clients and you could lose your business, full stop.

According to an article posted on Medium.com it’s 6–7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is a whopping 60–70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect can be as low as 5%.

It is clear that in the online world that we live in an expectation has been set by new technologies such as live chat and instant messaging where customers expect a fast reply regardless of the communication channel they have used to initiate contact. Email is playing catch up and tools like timetoreply.com are giving companies the data and tracking they need to get on top of their email response times. Travel companies can now track and improve their internal response times, response times to new and existing customers and ensure that their suppliers are also getting back to them in a timeous manner so that their customers are not kept waiting.

It is time that you start putting more focus on your lead response performance across the board because if you don’t those competitors of yours that you have come to hate will eat into your slice of the pie.