I wrote a book called ‘Shut Up and Say Something’. The premise is how to be a more effective communicator and start by having something to say or stop talking. Even though my book hit an Amazon best seller list and I know thousands of books have sold, I wonder how many people actually read it, or perhaps they should read it again.
Not a day goes by that I don’t come across a company or incident that prompts me to shake my head in bewilderment. It is the simplest things that keep your customers and relationships intact, yet people continually push others away by confusing, irritating and making it too difficult to work with them.
Here are my five easy steps to lose customers and sabotage relationships. Let’s start with my car dealership and step one.
- BE DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH
I called my car dealership to schedule a repair. After an annoying number of extension choices and being disconnected twice, I reached Eugene in the service department. I explained what was broken and that per my lease agreement, I wanted a valet to get my car, so I didn’t have to sit at the dealership for hours. Eugene then asked me if I was calling for a maintenance appointment.
Incredulous that he clearly hadn’t listened, I repeated the issue and he put me on hold. When he returned, he said he was having trouble scheduling a valet and someone would have to call me back. Not trusting this would happen, I specifically asked him if someone would definitely call me back today to schedule. Definitely he said. That was two days ago. No one has called. So, I went online to the Live Chat only to be told “I’m sorry, none our agents from Service are currently available.”
I’m not going back to this dealership anytime soon, if ever.
- TOO COMPLICATED
I referred a customer to one of our vendors I’ll call Dave. Dave reached out to thank me and said he thought the person I sent to him was overwhelmed. I asked why he would be overwhelmed, and Dave said, I’m not sure because I sent him a menu of many services to choose from. Aha! The word menu explained it for me. Think of a giant menu in a diner. There are often so many pages of items to choose from that it can be overwhelming. I asked Dave to send me what he sent the customer and sure enough, it was extremely confusing. Not only were there too many choices, but the time and fees required to do the work were wishy washy. Dave estimated the project could take between 3 and 15 hours depending on what the customer wanted. He gave him an assortment of hourly rates depending on what the customer chose.
Customers come to you for guidance. They tap into your expertise to help them make the right choices. Too many choices can lead to no choice. And that’s what happened here. The customer decided to use another vendor.
- TOO SLOW
As recently as ten years ago, websites would slow down or crash because there were too many users on the server. Today, thanks to advancements by Amazon and Google, Josh Koenig, chief strategy officer for the web platform company Pantheon says people expect almost instantaneous load times. He says people may stick around for up to three seconds for the images and text to slot into place, but anything more than that and impatience sets in.
That’s exactly what happened to me when trying to order a bridal registry gift online the other day. The retailers site was slow and difficult to navigate. After several unsuccessful tries to put items in the cart, I got frustrated and switched merchants. The next merchant site was consumer friendly and much easier to use so I bought the gift from them. Even though the first retailer was slightly less expensive, my time was more valuable.
- DON’T ARGUE WITH THE CUSTOMER
In June, I purchased plants from a local garden center. I specifically told the person helping me that I needed low maintenance plants that didn’t require a lot of watering. She strongly recommended a certain variety and told me after watering for the first few days (which I did religiously) “nothing would kill them, not even a bad drought.” They died within a month.
I called the nursery and after explaining the situation, the person who answered the phone said her staff is highly trained and no one would have ever told me not to continually water the plants for several weeks. She said every person who leaves the nursery gets a manual and plant care instructions. I said no one handed me a thing except a coupon to come back and buy more. She said I’m sure they handed you the materials as no one leaves here without them. Stopping short of calling me a liar she kept insisting what I was telling her couldn’t be true. No matter what I said, she argued and talked over me. While customers are not always right, your job is to solve their problems. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong. Making a problem worse only degrades relationships.
What she didn’t know is I have a relationship with the owner. I called him. He profusely apologized and told me to return for a full credit and said he would personally supervise the planting. Clearly, I’ll go back.
- DON’T LIE TO ME
When my son was a child, I saw him hit his younger brother. I asked him why he hit his brother and he looked me in the eye and said, “I didn’t hit him”. Clearly lying, I was able to talk to him, explain why lying (and hitting your brother) isn’t appropriate behavior and eventually, he grew out of it. But learning as a child is different than the adult world, we live in. With advanced technology, we are able to tell if someone called, left a voicemail or tried to reach us. So, when I didn’t receive a return call from someone and asked why they never called me back, they said I left you a voicemail. I always have my phone with me and told them I didn’t receive a voicemail or any calls from their number. I asked what number they called, and my number was correct. I suggested perhaps they misdialed and could easily check the number they called. The person said they didn’t misdial and didn’t need to check. I didn’t believe the person was being truthful but decided it wasn’t important enough to call them on it. Though my opinion of them certainly changed.
Trust, respect and communication are at the heart of relationships that can take years to build. When you fail to foster those relationships and put your customer first, it will only take seconds to destroy them.