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What Would You Do?

July 24, 2011
Mary Jane Copps

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I find myself in an uncomfortable business situation and I’m not 100% sure of my next step, so thought I’d use my blog to get your feedback. We can probably all benefit from knowing what you would/will do in a similar circumstance.

But before I tell you my story I do want to thank the reader from last week who reminded all of us that, while it is important to voice your dismay about inadequate and thoughtless customer service, it is equally important to recognize great customer service. I second that! I can think of two occasions, with Eastlink and Future Shop, where I had such great experiences that I even contacted management to share my praise. It’s all part of the revolution!

Now… here’s my business story:

A company I know well approached me about their new website. I provided them with three or four referrals … and expressed a bit of favoritism towards one of them.

Why? Well I knew the owner of that company from one of my workshops and they had impressed me with both their personality and their ability to communicate. About six months later I heard them speak about their industry at a public event. They were truly knowledgeable and, I felt, both professional and creative.

So, the company needing the new website did decide to work with this individual and … it has been a terrible customer experience for them. Deadlines have been missed more than once. Calls go unreturned for days. Even emails can be ignored. Agreed upon work schedules seem to mean nothing and when delays are pointed out, no explanation or apologies are offered.

Today (Monday) the project will be three weeks late and a commitment, worded as if the delay were the client’s fault, has been made that the website will be complete. I sure hope it happens! I do carry some guilt for making this recommendation but that’s simply part of my personality, not where I need advice.

What I’m considering, once the project is done (at the request of the company awaiting the completed website), is calling the individual I recommended. This is an individual who is talented, smart, has the potential to be a very successful entrepreneur but they are obviously making some very serious mistakes when it comes to customer service and communication.

In fact, they are making what I consider to be the biggest mistake any individual or organization can make – they are making promises to a client and then not keeping them. This destroys the possibility of referrals, eliminates repeat business and damages one’s reputation. Yikes!

Certainly we have all taken on projects and agreed to deadlines that, once we are “in the thick of things” we realize are unattainable. This is part of doing business and is to be expected. Where we show our true professionalism is in how we handle such delays – how we communicate with our clients so they continue to feel well served.

Part of me wonders if this technology entrepreneur with whom I was so impressed simply doesn’t realize the impact of their behaviour – doesn’t know how, even with delays, they could have created a better, more professional customer experience.

So, what do you think? Should I be proactive and contact them – give them advice they aren’t requesting? It is certainly possible I’ll be met with defensiveness and summarily dismissed … but maybe not.

Or should I only deal with this by making sure I never, ever recommend this individual for a job again and speak up if I hear them being considered for projects?

This Week’s Highlights:

My thanks to the gang at Metro Guide Publishing that invited me along for a wonderful evening that included Cirque de Soleil’s Quidam at the Halifax Metro Centre. Of course, it was an amazing show. I particularly enjoyed their homage to the skipping rope (an activity I loved dearly as a child). Incredible!

Appropriate this week to share a quote of Doris Lessing’s: “There is only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that second-best is anything but second-best.”

Enjoy your phonework! TPL

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