3 ways to save time responding to messages
Time is money, and when you run your own business, as well as finding time to do the work you get paid for, you need to also find the time for all the admin that goes along with it. Update the website, order stock, create social media posts, respond to emails, pay suppliers, advertise. If you can't afford to outsource those tasks or start employing more staff, then it is time to get smart.
What do you think of when you hear the word 'automation'? Maybe you think robots, industry, complicated, expensive. That can be the case, but there are lots of automation tools out there to help small businesses cut down on their online admin, especially when it comes to responding to messages.
Before you start
I'm trying to save you time, not give you more work, so start by writing down your five most common queries and prepare an answer to them. They will depend on your business but might be things like:
When are you open?
Do you deliver?
How do I book?
When will this be back in stock?
How long does delivery take?
Can I pay in instalments?
Is this suitable for vegans?
What size is this?
1) Set up FAQs on your website
Do you get asked the same questions over and over? It's time to create some FAQs (frequently asked questions).
When it comes to text on a website, less is more. Generally, people only skim read but if they have high purchase intent, they will read more closely and will want to find all the information they need about the product or service.
Make use of 'read more' buttons so the product pages don't look cluttered. Stick to the most important information up-front but include more detail somewhere else on the page. Here's an example from the Screwfix website, with a more info link that brings the user further down the page for the full spec and the Q&A section. This is where you want to make sure all the product queries are answered so you have less messages to reply to.
It might also be helpful to set up a separate FAQ page on the site and link to it from your product pages and shopping basket pages with common queries about returns, shipping, packaging etc.
2) Set up saved responses on your social media
You can set up quick responses and auto messages on your social media channels. Here's a quick overview of what to do on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook and Instagram
If you have Facebook and Instagram accounts, you can set up saved/quick responses for both at the same time. Log in to your Facebook account on a computer. Go to your page and on the left panel, select inbox.
Tap on a message in your inbox and click the speech bubble in the bottom right corner.
Click 'Create Saved Reply'
Choose a shortcut- this is one word that bet describes your response e.g. delivery, return, thanks.
Type your message.
Press save, and your message will now appear as an option in your saved replies.
You can also personalise your messages, which is a nice touch. Top tip. Create a generic thank you message that includes the persons name and always start with that. Then add a specific answer to their query after that.
To set up saved replies, follow these steps:
Go to settings and tap 'Business'
Tap 'Saved replies.'
Tap 'Add saved reply' and then type a response to one of your FAQs in the message section.
Give your response a shortcut name e.g. delivery
Press the tick to save.
You can add more by pressing the + sign.
When you get a DM with one of your FAQs, you can save yourself time by using one of your saved responses.
To do this, open the message and type in the shortcut for your response. A blue speech bubble will appear. Tap it and your auto response will appear in the chat box. I would suggest personalising it a bit, but if you are very short on time then just use the auto response.
When you are ready, just tap send!
2) Set up auto responses on your social media
You can't be available 24/7 and need to take a break from work. Unfortunately customers expect a response any time of the day or night so thankfully you can set up auto responses.
You can set these up on a computer for Facebook and Instagram. Go to your page and on the left panel, select inbox but this time choose Auto Responses at the bottom of the list.
Here you can set up an instant reply for all messages or create 4 FAQs that show up at the beginning of a conversation.
A very handy tool for service industries like beauticians and hairdressers is the Away Message. If you know you are going to be back to back with clients all day, set up your away message. Say something like:
"Thanks for getting in touch, I am fully booked today so I might not be able to respond as quickly as I would like to, but I will get back to you."
For tradespeople, the 'Share and get information' section might be helpful. You can set up a series a questions for potential customers to get the information you need before you give them a call back. You can ask for their location, details about the job, the best way to contact them.
Always include a timeframe for when you aim to get back to people on your website and auto responses. If it will take you 3-5 days to get back to someone, tell them so they don't bombard you with more messages assuming the first one got missed.
The one exception
If your business works best through personal selling, then you might intentionally provide vague information on your website to encourage customers to get in touch so you can have that 1-1 interaction. In that case, you want to make sure you provide a good level of information to pique interest and make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch via, phone, text, email, direct message or chatbot at a time that suits them.
If you get stuck or need help setting any of these things up, I would be happy to arrange a video call and talk you through it free of charge. Just send me a message...you might get an auto-response, but I will get back to you as soon as I can!