How long is “24 business hours”?

03Aug10

I recently contacted a company’s tech support department via email. A few minutes after sending my request, I got an auto-response that said I should expect to hear from them in “24 business hours”. Since most people would define the standard business day as 8 hours, I interpreted this to mean that I would get a response in 3 business days.

However, I can see a lot of customers reading this differently, and thinking that they’ll get a response within 24 hours on weekdays, i.e. on the next business day. Which interpretation is correct? I don’t know. But I am pretty confident that using a term like “24 business hours” is usually a mistake.

There’s a better and simpler approach. Stick to terms that everyone agrees on, like “hours” and “business days”. Returning to my example, the tech support department might choose one of the following ways to describe their response times:

– Next business day

– Within 3 business days

– Within 4 hours if the request was received during business hours, or by the end of the next business day if the request was received outside of business hours

Setting the proper expectations can make a huge difference in how customers perceive your tech support performance. Thus, it pays to use words and phrases that leave no room for confusion. Tell people what to expect using terms that everybody understands, and you’ll make things easier for your customers and tech support staff alike.



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