Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ignore emails, phone calls, and other communications at your peril.

Have you ever made several emails seeking information for a service or a product and got no reply? Then you try again and send out a followup email and still no reply from all the businesses in the same sector? This happened to me recently when I needed quotes for a large job. I sent out over 20 emails to various companies in New Zealand, Australia and the USA and received only 2 replies!!! My initial thoughts are, "are these businesses crazy?", you bet they are. Although the 2 replies that I received couldn't help me out, at least they told me and one of them even gave me a referral to their competitor who I emailed and received NOTHING!

I had it in mind to let all my friends know about my bad experience and name every single company that ignored my email but I thought I would give them a second chance. Always remember, bad news travels faster than good news and when people share the negative experiences with their friends and family, this is a 'viral campaign' of sorts. The power of word of mouth should never be underestimated. If people don't feel that a business is not addressing their needs, they will move on and likely do business with your competitor. If these people tell others of your bad service, you have the potential for a lot of people leaving in their droves to your competitors. Just look at what happened to Bear Sterns this past week! I know it's a little different to what I'm talking about but the issue is the same. If people lack confidence in your business due to bad communication or lack of, bad investment decisions, bad management, bad customer service, your customers will leave.

When you ignore any form of communication from your customers and potential customers, you could be missing out on lucrative cash flows. If you won't help your customers, your competitors surely will. Always think of new customers as customers for life and not one off transactions. It's the repeat business that will sustain and grow your business. Without that, a lot of businesses will suffer financially.

Try looking at it from your own perspective as a customer then think, why is that you only buy certain brands. Why do you drive long distances to service your car? Why do you use the same plumbing service and not anyone else? Why do you usually fly on the same airline carrier? Why do you buy mainly one type of sports shoe? Why do you use only one brand of computer? software? search engine? If you didn't receive an email or a return to your phone call to a business on an urgent request, wouldn't you be disappointed? Yes there is more to it than just replying to a customer's email, phone call or personal request but don't forget, for a lot of people this is what they value highly. It relates to your reliability as a business and businesses should see these communications as opportunities to build trust and long-term relationships.

How do you ensure this doesn't happen? Try a couple of these simple tips:

  • check your emails regularly and answer them within a couple days max. Not longer. If not, get a 'virtual assistant'.
  • if you cant help someone, say it! People really don't mind. They simply need an answer. Just make sure you reply either in person or via email. Give a referral if you can. You are there to build trust with people.
  • exceed your customer(s) expectations at every single point of contact/interaction
    • why? there are several reasons why.
      1. your customers will remember that experience positively and will likely come back
      2. your customers will likely refer someone else to your business
      3. because when you do, you are inherently building up 'goodwill' and customer loyalty. You are investing in a bank of 'positive credits'. If you experience a bad situation, your loyal customers are likely to forgive you and stick with you through rough times.
        • ignore your customers and you might as will find another business
So don't be afraid to let your customers know that you can't help them. Tell them that you can't and if you can, send them to your competitor or provide alternative solutions to resolving their issue.

There is nothing worse than a business that doesn't respond or say anything at all!

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