*Originally published on CEPro.com
While most integrators understand the importance of communicating with clients, many business owners would be wise to listen to these time-tested communication strategies.
Many years ago, when I had my integration company, I was working on a very nice remodel project. The homeowner was a big guy with a very strong personality! The central component in the AV system was a 55-inch Fujitsu display for the family room with a retail price of $15,000. At the time there were many other options for a 55-inch display at 1/2 or 1/3 of the price. The customer wanted the best display device for this main living area in the home; I joined many other industry colleagues in the belief that the Fujitsu panel was the best plasma available.
The installation was just prior to the Summer Olympics of 2004. The homeowner was a sports fanatic and very excited to watch the full event in spectacular detail on the new panel. We installed it, fired up the system and the customer was ecstatic! One week after the install, the Fujitsu had a hardware failure and would no longer power up. The customer was understandably upset and demanded a new panel.
There were 2 problems in honoring his request: 1) Fujitsu would never replace the display, they wanted to repair it, as with most other TV manufacturers 2) I had a very small start-up business at the time, and I could not afford to purchase another panel for him while the other was being repaired. Due to the timing, I had some challenges communicating with the company to determine when the parts would arrive, then schedule the final service repair for the panel. Unfortunately, this challenge went on for a couple of weeks.
I remember vividly, one Friday as it was nearing the end of the work. I was incredibly frustrated because I could not reach anyone at the company to provide me with an update to share with the customer. Regardless, I made the decision that I had to call the customer before we embarked on the weekend. I let the customer know that I didn’t have any updates, but that I’d continue to work hard to resolve the situation.
I took a big breath and expected to get blasted with more demands to bring out a new panel. Instead, I received the most graceful response of appreciation for the call.
For Customers, Bad News is Better Than No News
This is of course a classic example of bad news is always better than no news at all. The week after the call the parts arrived and the panel was repaired. I am confident that the homeowner enjoyed the panel for many years moving forward.
I have heard many people over the years use the excuse that they did not call someone because they didn’t have an answer for them yet or didn’t know when they can get them back in the schedule – this is never acceptable. I have held numerous management positions over the course of my 30+ years in the CE Industry, and I have always said to my team that “poor communication is the root cause of nearly every escalated issue”.
Many businesses have achieved great success through exceptional communication, while others have failed miserably due to poor communication. Just consider the last time you searched a website to find any contact information or surfed through an endless phone maze to reach a live human to speak with about their product or service.
To achieve great success in your business through effective communication, I suggest the following:
6 Ways to Achieve Greater Business Success Via Effective Communication
Never avoid difficult conversations
As with the example described earlier, it is always best to tackle the tough conversations immediately, rather than letting them simmer and eventually blow up. When it comes to open issues: Time + Silence = Escalation.
We all like updates
Why do you think Amazon sends you constant updates? “your order is being processed, your order shipped, your order is due to arrive today…” And their business is booming!
When I had my integration company much of my business was referral-based, as with many other companies. When I received a referral from a builder, architect, interior designer or client, I would regularly update the source of the referral. I would call and say “Thank you for referring Mr. and Mrs. Smith to me. I had a great meeting with them last night. They had questions about some of the technology, which we addressed for them. I plan to create a system design for their new home and schedule another meeting with them next week. I will let you know how the next meeting goes with them. Thank you again.”
I consider this exercise and my amazing team to be key elements in the revenue doubling my business experienced every year until the day I sold it!
You are not too busy to communicate
I often hear “I just never had time to get back to them, I’m so busy”. We have all been busy at one point or another in our life and business. When I had my integration company, I also started working for a small (at the time) Control System Manufacturer (part time) doing all the sales, technical support, customer service, writing all the copy for all brochures, etc.. I still found time to return every call and email within 24 hours. Being too busy is a poor excuse and will impact your business and reputation.
Your words communicate your character
If you don’t know the answer to something, don’t make it up! It’s OK to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”
As I get older, I tell my kids that my memory is full! When something new comes into my brain, I lose something out of the other ear. I have a memory leak somewhere. I understand that I may not always remember to follow-up, so I write a lot of lists with items I need to address, so I don’t forget.
I would also use this practice in my previous company to follow up with every customer one month after we completed their installation to see if they were enjoying the system or had any questions or issues for us to resolve. I didn’t want to find out a year later that they never used the system because of X, Y, or Z.
Respond, don’t react
We all face difficult or disappointing experiences in life or have ugly issues to tackle. When you are faced with an issue, make sure you gather ALL the facts first, before taking any formal action or decision. I have had countless experiences in life that exposed a whole different story once I have gathered all of the facts and had time to review them.
I have hired many people over the years, and as many of them will tell you, I always said: “I insist of excellent communication. If you can’t follow up with our customers, we will have a BIG problem.”
Best wishes for continued success and excellence in your business!