Using an analogy of a communication highway, I’ll share some real-life experiences with you via California Highway 101. An essential part of developing relationships involves communication, and that should be a two-way road. In order to create a successful, long-term business you need two-way communication with no blockades or traffic detours!
You want to develop a relationship with potential customers to make your first sale, and for repeat business. In this day and age, people expect a response within 24 hours or sooner via phone, fax, email, overnight mail, and now immediately via social media and texting. Customers appreciate it when you are acting with their needs in mind. They are looking to you for a solution to a problem, or they wouldn’t reach out to you.
Communication, Not a One-way Street
I’m on a mission to develop a custom avatar (likeness) for my personal brand. I’ve found a social media professional with a *great* Web site presence. We connect on LinkedIn, and set up a time to talk. I don’t hear back, so I send a nice message. Apparently they forgot about our phone conference, so we set up a second one as they are leaving town.
By now, I am really looking forward to this conversation as I need some guidance. I really want a unique graphic to represent me online, and I want to make it happen now! I have a business I’m growing here.
You probably know what I am going to say next, right? Well, the conversation didn’t happen, because I never received a response. This is from a person who claims they make 7 figures online, and apparently is viewed as an expert. What do you think? Is this good customer service?
I am so excited to be designing my new business card! I have an awesome logo, and need to start networking asap. I can’t stand to use my “temporary” card any longer! I want something different and memorable and have some good ideas. Things are happening, and I need a designer, quick!
I email specs to my logo designer, but got no response. (I have a feeling her quote was too low, but she didn’t want to tell me that). So I started searching for someone local, and met a graphic artist (shop local, right?). They told me what the charge would be, and asked me to email the specs. So I did, but never received a response, even after calling and leaving a phone message.
I had a chance to see this designer many weeks later and I reminded them who I was. They finally remembered and said that I was “on their list.” Hmmm. I told her I thought they weren’t interested because they hadn’t responded. They apologized but said they were too busy and gave me excuses. Is this any way to communicate with customers? Not if you want to stay in business! Good customer service will keep people coming back.
In these cases, there was no opportunity to develop a relationship because it didn’t get any further than an initial conversation. Not only does this turn a potential customer off, but it will prevent them from being a source of business leads or referrals. It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, and may even cause a worse problem.
This is where it gets scary. As you know, with social media any incident can go “viral.” I dislike that word, but it’s effective. With sharing, retweeting, and +1ing anything can potentially be shared on networks to the devastation of one’s reputation.
Remember that commercial where they say, “and they told two friends, and they told two friends.” Ahhhh! Just don’t do it, don’t ignore people that are trying to support you! Any response is better than no response.
Make sure potential customers aren’t going through a detour, away from you and towards your competition, because you didn’t take the time to respond. The lesson here is to make sure you take the time every day to communicate with your potential customers!
I always recommend that customers going online have a customer service plan in mind. Who is going to respond to posts? Answer email? Answer the phone (heaven forbid!)? If staff knows what their responsibilities are, you will have more online success. And hey, if that’s you doing everything, good customer service comes first!
And this is my $.05 for today.
This blog is part of a series on relationship marketing. I’d love to hear your opinion! Please post your comment below, I know we all have stories to share!
Another Small Business Internet Marketing Blog by Tina Reed Johnson