Just 30 short years ago in 1984, I was at my first job out of college. We had our own desktop telephones, but we shared two or three computers terminals and a single fax machine among 40 people in the office. Business with the outside world was limited to 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you needed a signature on a contract, you might get approval to “overnight it” if the deal was large enough. We literally sent tons of direct mail and it wasn’t until weeks later that we followed up. And I fondly recall that nights and weekends were our own.
Today, my clients text, email and call me 24x7, expecting that I will receive, read, decide and respond immediately. I conduct business from my desk, my car, my home, a plane-- basically anywhere in the world at any time. Putting out someone else’s fire at 10 p.m. on a Friday night isn’t considered being a team player (if it’s an internal issue) or great service (if it’s a client/customer issue); it’s the expectation.
But I am not just speaking anecdotally. According to a study by Lithium Technologies, 66% of consumers expect a same-day response to their online request, and 43% expect a response within an hour or less.
External demand from consumers, clients and prospects naturally creates internal demand. Like I alluded to before, managers need to be at the ready to assist their teams at just about any time. The expectation at both ends, internally and externally, is 24x7 access. And if you can’t deliver, your customer and your employer will find someone who can.
So how do you meet expectations? Thankfully, the burden doesn’t just fall on the individual. Sure, managers need to be attentive even while out of the office, but the company needs to put systems in place that break down communication barriers and enable better two-way access: the office needs to be able to reach workers outside its walls, and workers outside the office need to be able to reach people, files and information inside the office. It’s these demands that are driving mobility initiatives and pushing companies away from traditional communications systems and toward hosted and unified communications solutions.
The bottom line is when expectations change, businesses need to change with them. And with all of the solutions technology is offering to meet those expectations, whether it’s through new devices, software or hardware, businesses that aren’t adapting will find themselves quickly running out of excuses.