We’ve all had times when we weren’t able to deliver what we promised to our customers.
Maybe you’re going to be able to do it, but not when you promised. Or maybe it’s not going to be quite the way you said.
Maybe a supplier didn’t deliver to you on time. Maybe you had a problem with the people working for you. Maybe you messed up.
No matter how it happened, you’re not going to be able to do what the customer is expecting by when they expect it. Now what?
We’ve all also been on the other side; we’ve been the customer who was waiting. We’ve wondered why a delivery isn’t here yet or why we aren’t seeing the people we expected. The worst part is the waiting and not knowing, isn’t it?
With that little insight, let’s look at how we treat customers. Are we leaving people waiting and wondering?
Especially in a small town, we kind of feel like everyone knows everything about our business, but that’s an illusion. Really, customers have no idea what went wrong or why you haven’t kept your word. You’re going to have to tell them.
The secret: Overcommunicate
It’s not much of a secret, but it might as well be, given how seldom it gets done well.
Think about the times you’ve been left wondering. Think about the stories you read and hear from other people in town and online. How many times is the real complaint about not knowing what is going on? Start looking for that in all the customer stories you come across.
Use all your tools
You have plenty of ways to reach customers today. Even in small towns, you can reach people by email, text/SMS, or Messenger. Heck, you could even call them.
When to let customers know
Start as soon as you know there is a problem or possible problem. Don’t wait. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to make yourself do it.
In the first contact, let the customer know just the basics. Tell them there’s a problem, you’re sorry, and what you think will happen now.
Next, reach out when you know more. As soon as you hear an update or figure out a new plan, tell the customer. There is where we as business owners fall down the most. We get an update from others or learn more about what is going on, then we keep it to ourselves. We’re busy, and we don’t really want to talk to that potentially angry customer anyway.
One way to defeat that is remind yourself how glad the customer will be. They’ll be happy you haven’t left them wondering.
In between, stay in contact, even if you don’t know anything new. Customers are people, and people hate to think they’ve been forgotten.
Should you send updates weekly? Daily? Monthly? Depends on the situation, but you can make an educated guess. If you’re not sure, ask the customer. “Do you want me to update you less often?” (I’m guessing they’ll say no.)
When I had a problem with my webhosting, even an hour seemed like an eternity to wait. While they fixed the problem in less than a day, the only way I knew what was going on was through friends who helped get me some inside info. Don’t make your customers turn into detectives trying to get information from you.
Right now, I’m waiting to hear back from my car dealer about when they’ll have parts to repair my car’s airbag. I haven’t heard back in over a month. A quick text would let me know they still remember me and my car.
You have your own stories, too, I’m sure. The question is, do your customers?
Photo by josealbafotos on Pixabay
- Downtown is your town’s core: How to make your case - February 22, 2021
- Zoom Towns: attracting and supporting remote workers in rural small towns - December 10, 2020
- In an economic crisis, spend your brainpower before your dollars - November 25, 2020
- Video: How to fill empty car dealership buildings for the holidays - November 6, 2020
- How has 2020 changed the challenges rural small towns face? Tell us here - October 20, 2020
- The Idea Friendly Method to surviving a business crisis - October 6, 2020
- Join me for the Rural Renewal Symposium online Oct 13 - September 26, 2020
- Cheap placemaking idea: instant murals - September 11, 2020
- Refilling the rural business pipeline - July 7, 2020
- Huge vacant buildings: grants to renovate? - June 9, 2020