I admit it – I’m kind of hooked on online ordering. No driving, no wait time, a few clicks and I’m done. If it’s not what I expected, I send it back.
So let’s just say I’m pretty accustomed to the ease of this process. Once I’ve placed the order, I receive a notice about the items. I’ll also see additional notices when it’s been processed and shipped. I might even receive an email that the item has been delivered and did I collect it? It’s all automated, but it keeps me in the loop. I can check on my item at any time and view the timeline.
Most businesses are pretty particular about making their customers happy. Some, like Amazon, ship millions of items a day (in 2014, around 5 billion items were sold on Amazon), and the automated notices are a significant asset in their customer service procedures.
A few months ago after I placed an order with one company, it sent me an email. Then – nothing. After two weeks, I didn’t hear a peep. I had to call. Was everything okay? My credit card in working order? They assured me all was well; they were simply behind with the influx of orders. Because I am accustomed to quick service, I was a bit antsy. But it wasn’t that I hadn’t received the order; it was because I didn’t hear a word for two weeks.
Communication is vital in business. In whatever form it’s delivered – email, text, phone – we’re just happy someone acknowledges our existence and our needs. We know, as a customer, how it feels when our calls and emails go unanswered. Even if there isn’t a definite answer, we like to know we’re at least being heard.
When we’ve made a promise to someone, perhaps to deliver a project by a particular date, you can bet that client or supervisor is expecting that project by that time. What happens when it doesn’t arrive? Their trust in us wavers. They are the ones who have to take action. They have to pick up the phone, track us down and ask questions. Add to that: others might have to reschedule to adjust because we didn’t meet a promised deadline.
So what if you do deliver that project on time, but you’ve allowed a substantial gap of silence in between? Can we still lose trust? You bet.
A little acknowledgement beats silence any day. We are all busy. We’re trying to get things done and keep the business moving forward. We don’t have time for hour-long phone conversations over little things. But a brief email, text or quick phone call sure diffuses tension along the way.
The problem with lack of communication is that silence can be misconstrued as covering an issue. You’ve made a mistake, can’t deliver, or something to that effect, and you’re afraid to speak up. That might not be it at all, but that’s how it’s perceived by the other party. Are you really that busy that you can’t acknowledge the existence of your customer in some way? If so, then you shouldn’t be in business. Loyalty is key to growing our bottom line. Happy customers spread the word. Unhappy customers disseminate venom.
If there is a problem, admit it. Then tell the customer what you’re doing to fix it. If the company I ordered from had simply sent an update to their customers, that would have saved me time. They could have said: “Due to the influx of orders, we’re running a little behind on our 3-5 day delivery promise. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but we assure you we’re working overtime to get your items to you as soon as possible. Our goal is to have your items shipped within the next 7 days. We’ll send you a notice when they’re out the door.” Then I would have known it wasn’t an issue on my end.
Updates are a pretty big deal. We’re telling people: “Hey, I haven’t forgotten you. I’m still working on it and it’ll be delivered on time.” That’s all we care about. Even a quick response to an email acknowledges to the sender that we received it, we read it and we appreciate the time they took to send it.
It is true that answering every email or phone call that comes through can sap our time. Productivity will be lacking if we aren’t focused.
Here’s what you can do:
Label email messages that do not require immediate attention, but should have a response before the end of the day.
Set aside three separate blocks of time every day, even if it’s 15 minutes (i.e., early morning, after lunch and before leaving for the day), to respond to those messages.
Make your message brief, but enough to let the person know you received his/her message. Give him an update on either what is being done and/or where you are in the timeline.
I’ve even sent text messages to clients because it’s quick and let’s them know I’m working on whatever they need.
Bottom line: Maintaining loyalty in business is sometimes as simple as open communication.
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