In an effort to avoid annoying and unnecessary communication, are we insulating ourselves from opportunity?
Take this situation that happened just yesterday. I had a lead for someone and didn’t have his email address. I called the receptionist to get it. She, rather unpleasantly, answered, “That information’s not available.” Not available? There were several more gracious ways she might have handled the situation, but in an effort to protect her boss from the inconvenience of an unsolicited email, she lost him a great lead. Why would I refer business to a company with a culture that doesn’t welcome communication?
It got me thinking about all the times I’ve unsuccessfully dealt with automated receptionists, voice mail hell and websites that offer only an automated contact form or a general email address. Any company that won’t let me communicate with someone personally tells me their convenience is more important than my business.
By contrast, I applaud websites that list everyone’s name, title, extension and email, including the customer service people and CEO. That’s a company that wants to do business with me on a personal level and makes it easy to connect with them.
It’s time to reframe the issue of communication. Have we forgotten it’s the lifeblood of our businesses? We spend thousands of dollars creating websites, brochures and Facebook pages that advertise our companies, yet when someone actually tries to communicate with us, we make it difficult. Does that make any sense at all?
Think of every phone call and email as a potential opportunity. Sure, it might be a vendor that can be a bit annoying, but have you considered, that with a little nurturing, even a vendor you don’t do business with can be a potential ambassador for your company? By avoiding communication, you could be missing leads, a great new employee, the opportunity to build a beneficial relationship or simply the chance to tell someone more about your company, thereby spreading the word.
The most professionally run companies make sure correspondence of any kind is addressed. They understand the need to create a great impression through responsiveness. Even small businesses with limited resources need to take that lesson and run with it.
Sometimes, business leadership becomes so removed from office processes, they don’t even realize what’s happening. That’s no excuse. Test your own company’s friendliness quotient: Anonymously call in to your office to connect with various people and departments. You might be surprised how difficult it is.
Check your website. Are key contacts available? Even customer service contacts should have a name so people feel a personal connection.
Make sure your employees are trained to deal with any type of phone call in a warm and welcoming fashion. Simply transferring someone to another voice mail is not an acceptable solution.
Yes, accessibility takes a little effort and might be inconvenient. But your reputation as a responsive and open business is worth it.
PS – I am shocked at how many voice mail messages say “I’ll get back to you at my earliest convenience.” When did doing business become about your convenience?