Are You on the Same Page as Your Customers?
Leave it to kids to remind us that that we need really good listening skills.
Our young neighbor Jack, who’s all of 7, came biking by our house early Saturday morning. “We’re leaving for the Cape in about an hour,” he yelled over, with evident glee, “and we’re staying for a really long time!”
“Wow, that’s great!” says I. “How long?”
“Till Monday!” says he.
Ha! I was expecting him to say, “The whole summer!” (Or at least a week or two.)
The joke was on me. But Jack taught me a couple of things we can all apply to business.
First of all, when a print customer says she needs something printed ASAP or even “right away,” you need clarification. For all you know, she’s thinking same day or next day—or maybe to her, next week is fine. If you don’t ask, you’ll assume it means what you think it means. Wrong!
Likewise, when you’re discussing delivery dates for jobs or proofs, sometimes the date itself can mean different things to different people. “Friday” might mean end of day to you (5 p.m. your time), but a client could be thinking morning or early afternoon, so she can check out her samples or distribute some to her team.
Call it a misunderstanding or plain-old miscommunication, but whatever you call it, it can create real headaches for both you and your customer.
I remember the time when a critical direct mail campaign was scheduled through my printer. The company handled the mailing as well as the printing. I’d received the postage estimate earlier (natch) and, thinking everything was hunky dory, calmly waited for the mailing to take place within the week.
A few days later, I called my print rep to make sure everything was copacetic.
Not quite. She was waiting for a check from me. It seems that she failed to mention (ever) that nothing would happen with my postcards until the company received my check for postage.
I was steamed—not because I thought it was unreasonable, but because it was the first time I heard anything about this policy.
Bottom line: make certain you’re on the same wavelength as your customers. Critical policies must be spelled out and shared. Banish all ambiguous terminology from your service and sales reps’ lips (“ASAP,” “pretty soon,” “that’s about right,” “we’re good to go” all come to mind).
And how about ending every critical conversation about planning a project with this: “Do you have any questions at all for me? Don’t hesitate to call or email me if you do.”
In all my years in this business, I don’t recall any sales rep saying something like that to me.