Daniel Tardy: License To Sell

I’m STILL waiting…

Posted in Business, Selling by elephanthunters on February 5, 2010

Happy. Regular. Customer.

I ran into the store yesterday after my swim workout to grab one of my favorite quick-bite-standbys, the turkey avocado wrap.  The lady behind the counter knows me by name (even though I always seem to forget hers)…she asks if I want the usual, and all I have to do is give her the affirming nod and she’s on it.  She’s proud of her wraps, and she loves her customers.  She makes the wraps herself every morning, and takes great pride in the fact that by about 1:30 each afternoon they’re all gone.

They messed with my routine

When I went in to grab my wrap yesterday, I knew from across the store that I had a problem.  I didn’t see ‘my wrap-lady’.  Instead, standing in wrap-laddie’s usual spot was ‘hippie-dude’. Now, I’m not mad at guys  with long hair who wear earrings or other types of body hardware per se , but this guy looked like he just climbed out of a tackle-box!  His body language wasn’t very reassuring, and given his general hygienic disposition and overall vibe, I was really hoping that wrap-lady was just on break and not gone for good.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the Hipster is a really nice guy…he just wasn’t giving me a lot of reasons to accuse him of knowing anything about turkey avocado wraps.

I blew it off and took my place in line behind the customer in front of me and waited.  While I was standing there, another patron approached  the counter and stood in her own newly self-acclaimed-line to wait.  Guess what?  Hippie-dude waited on her before me.  “No big deal”, I thought.  Maybe he didn’t realize I was there before her, besides I’m a gentleman so, ‘Ladies first’.  No problem.

I didn’t really start getting frustrated until hippie-dude proceeded to wait on patron number five without ever acknowledging me!  This was ridiculous.  I almost walked out, but I had a need that not even more cowbell could satisfy…I had to get my wrap.  So, I raised my hand.  I stood there like a fool in the middle of the store with my arm held high until finally, hippie-dude took note and grunted something that sounded like ‘What do you want’?

I got my wrap and I got out, all the while praying that wrap-lady would be back next time.

They shouldn’t have to wait

As I was driving back to the office, it hit me that the frustrating feelings I experienced during this little scenario must be similar to the feelings our clients, prospects and co-workers feel when we make them wait.  A phone call returned 3 days later, a slow email response, or an unanswered web inquiry are all legitimate reasons for a customer to be disappointed, and for a prospect to abandon us.

Here are few habits I try to keep up in order to avoid making people wait:

  • Serve external customers first.  If a coworker is standing at your desk and your phone is ringing…answer the phone.  Help your coworker later.
  • Which Email? Allow complexity to prioritize speed of response.  If it’s small and fast then do it now. I typically return emails in the order I receive them, but I’m always scanning my inbox for things that I can reply to quickly with a few words and delete, regardless of chronological order.  Keep the small things moving and don’t let them bottleneck.
  • I read ALL my emails EVERY day. But I don’t always have time to give an adequate response, or I might need to get input or research something before I reply.  In this case I’ll simply reply with “I’ll get back with you on this”.  Then I drop the email into an Outlook appointment in the next day or two when I’ll have time to work on it.   I delete it from my inbox so it’s out of site.

Most people don’t expect an answer right away…just a response.

  • Return all phone calls ASAP.  If someone calls they’re hoping to get a live person…not a voice mail.  24 hours is too long for a voice mail to go unanswered.   If an assistant or secretary is returning calls on your behalf, make sure they are on top of this.  Discuss with them regularly the importance of returning calls fast.
  • Set expectations. If you’re out of town and won’t be looking at email, then use the out of office feature letting people know when they should expect to hear from you.  If they’re filling out a web form tell them your goal is to get to them in ‘X’ amount of time.  Maybe it’s as much as a week…that’s fine as long as you communicate it.  Otherwise the expectation is that you will reply immediately.  Chris Brogan had a great post on this yesterday regarding web forms titled Make it Easy to Connect

There are certainly times when we are simply unable to have perfect response times.  The key to maintaining happy customers is not perfect response time as much as it is helping them understand that you’re doing the best you can to get with them soon,  AND letting them know what to expect.

How do you do it?

I’d love to hear systems or strategies that you use to stay on top of response time.  Please take a minute to post a reply so we can all benefit from your experience!

2 Responses

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  1. Jon Edlin said, on February 5, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Great advice. It’s something I struggle with but these tips give me hope that I can be a better communicator with coworkers and clients. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    – Jon

  2. Patrick Fariss said, on February 8, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Moving from teaching to education sales and marketing, I appreciate this advice. Time to make it happen–starting today!

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