Pheil: Responsible businesses should not make this mistake
February 23, 2014
Story #1: My Business Coach
I called my business coach with a question. He wasn't there, so I hung up and shot him a quick email asking him to call me, listing some times I'd be available. It was Monday morning. He didn't get back to me that day. Or the next day. Or Wednesday. So come Thursday I start fearing the worst, especially with his lengthy history of battling cancer and hospital visits.
So I emailed my business coach again on Thursday morning. No reply Thursday, no reply Friday. Come the following Monday, I was terrified. The only time this had happened in the past was when he'd had an extremely serious surgery and extended hospital stay.
Story #2: Potential Realtor
At one point in time, my better half and I were considering selling our house. As part of our research process, we interviewed a small handful of realtors.
At one point, we emailed one of the realtors to get clarification about information he'd sent our way. No reply same day, next day, or two days after. In fact, no reply one week or two weeks after. We figured he'd forgotten about us, so we forgot about him.
Story #3: New Client
A while back we were working for a client on the design and development of a new website along with a completely reworked online marketing strategy. We presented the client with a first round of designs for their new website. Per our agreement, they had one week to review their designs and get back to us with feedback so we could stay on schedule and continue to move forward and maintain the project's momentum.
We didn't hear a peep from them all week. The following Monday (their one week deadline) came and went. We left a voicemail for the client and sent three emails that week, but heard absolutely nothing from them. Accordingly, the project schedule imploded at that time.
How These Stories Ended
Story #1: My business coach wasn't in the hospital. In fact, he'd taken off for a (well-deserved) week and a half of relaxation in Mexico.
Story #2: We eventually got an email from the realtor. He sent us a cheery "Hello!!" and a quick apology — after he'd returned from a three-week vacation in Australia we hadn't known about.
Story #3: The client's kids had Spring Break. They spent one week getting ready for it, then the next week enjoying it out of town.
Why I'm Telling You These Stories
I can guarantee you I wasn't the only person who'd tried to reach out to these people during the times they were away. I can guarantee I wasn't the only person who experienced frustration, worry or concern after not hearing back from them.
I can also guarantee that in cases where one is looking to determine if he/she will do business with someone new or receive help from an existing vendor/partner, it never helps when you make those people feel ignored. (For example, after two days of no response, we knew we wouldn't be working with the realtor.) It's not fun talking to a brick wall and never knowing if you'll get a response, whether you should follow up, or whether you're just low on their priority list.
Unresponsiveness is simply bad business. It loses you money. And the thing is: it's so easily and so quickly prevented!
Set up an autoresponder if you'll be out of the office for more than a day. Every modern email program and service has the ability to send out automatic emails to all incoming emails. In your auto-replies, simply say when you left the office, when you'll be back, and what people should do if it's an emergency that can't wait.
Anger, frustration, worry, feelings of abandonment, lost business, wasted time, low professionalism = all prevented.
Start doing this. Now. I'm not the only one who will be exceptionally frustrated or, even worse, who won't do business with you if you don't make this into a business habit.
Erin Pheil is the owner of TimeForCake Creative Media—the Web Design & Strategy company voted #1 in Best of Summit. Visit her company's website at http://www.timeforcake.com or email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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