I've been mulling over my friend, Terry Starbucker's, list of ten surefire ways to impress your boss. Wow! What a great list. One of the items on his list jumped off the page this morning: Display common courtesy, especially by returning phone calls and emails. Why did that one stand out? Glad you asked.
My wife and I made a large investment to replace many of the windows in our house with some great Pella windows. We made the arrangements early in the summer and the windows were delivered in July. The contractor who is doing the work told us to order them and get them delivered, then he would work us into the schedule. The original projection was August. That was eventually moved to September, then "mid-September." We are past mid-September and I haven't heard a word. This week I've left more than one message asking for an update. No response.
I'm assuming, by the lack of response, that the news is not good and the contractor has to push out the installation. In an effort to avoid the conflict, the messages are going unreturned. The problem is, the lack of response keeps us in the dark. Having no idea when the project will start is worse than being disappointed in the answer. The frustration of trying to get an answer is added to the disappointment of the schedule change.
Contrast this to a call I was analyzing for one of our clients who is in the manufacturing industry. A CSR had been out of the office due to a death in the family. In her absence, the team had not checked or responded to any of the CSR's messages. A loyal customer had been waiting for word on a crucial order for a week. When the CSR called to apologize and provide the information, the customer said:
"Oh, honey. Are you alright? I knew when you didn't call me back that something must be wrong. That's one of the things I appreciate about you. You're the only vendor who I can count on to immediately call me back. Even when you know I'm not going to like the news, you still call me. You have no idea how much I appreciate that."
Avoiding your customers because you've got bad news is only going to delay the moment of truth, increase your customer's frustration, and ensure an even worse conversation when you finally do call. Your customer may be dissatisfied with the news you have to deliver, but quick, honest communication minimizes the damage. Customer satisfaction is built on a foundation of honest communication: good news and bad.