October 2015

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Client Relations – Revisited
(Two of Two)

Final (?) words of wisdom

Steven R Calabrese Steven R. Calabrese
Control Engineering Corp.

Contributing Editor

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Continuing from last month’s column, I share just a few more pieces of advice on customer relations. Far be it from me to preach on proper business etiquette, for I am far from perfect. But I am observant, and even if I don’t always follow my own advice, as shared here and last month, I am smart enough to recognize these as being important, and as being something to strive for in everyday business.

Customize Your Voicemail

Ever call someone that you’ve never called before, only to get their voicemail? You’d expect (hope) for a personalized voicemail greeting, by the recipient, stating to the effect…”You have reached so-and-so, I’m sorry I missed your call, but please leave a message and I’ll get back to you…”. But instead what you get is the automated message letting you know you’ve reached the mailbox of the number that you dialed. How do you know for sure if you’ve even dialed the right number? It’s always awkward, leaving a message in this scenario. I usually start with…”Hi, this message is for so-and-so, please call back…”. And then hope for the best.

The point is, there’s really no reason not to customize your voicemail inbox. You want callers to know that they’ve reached your line, don’t you? Even the simple “first name last name” would be better than nothing at all. Takes but a few minutes of your time, so get it done and then forget about it!

Along the same lines, what’s up with people letting their voicemail inboxes become full, so full that you can’t leave a message? Is this even possible anymore? How many voicemails do you have to have sitting in your mailbox, such that it cannot accept another? Time to delete some of those, unless you simply don’t want to be reached!

Fire Your Out-of-office Assistant

If you use email, then you’re likely familiar with something referred to as the Out-of-office Assistant. And while there’s something to be said about this feature, using it and abusing it are separated by a very thin line. Allow me to explain.

I do use this feature. I use it when I go on vacation, or when I take more than a single day off. I typically am available via cell phone, even on holiday, at least on a periodic basis, to check missed calls, voicemails, and emails. When I set up my Out-of-office Assistant, this is what I write. It simply lets email senders know that I am not officially working on that particular day, but will still be periodically checking emails and voicemails.

I’ve seen people use this feature to let their clients know that they are out of the office and “unavailable”. Really? How is it in this day and age that you’re unavailable? Even if you are, do you really want to send that message to your customers and clients? Seems to me like an excuse; a cop-out, if you will. Am I saying to do away with the Out-of-office Assistant altogether? Maybe. The point I’m trying to make is, unfortunately we’ve reached the point to where we’re all available, all the time (pretty much). You can’t really use the excuse if you’re on vacation that you’re “unreachable”. Because you’re not. May as well give in, check emails and voicemails on a periodic basis, and deal with any urgent issues the best you can from your vacation vantage point. Your customers and co-workers will respect the fact that you’re on holiday, and will appreciate the correspondence. I’m sorry to inform, but you can’t hide behind your automated out-of-office messages anymore, be it email, voicemail, or whatever else. Technology has made it nearly impossible to hide!

Give Praise

How often do we get reprimanded for not doing something the way it “should have” been done? How often is it that we are praised for doing something “right”?

The answers to the two above questions could very well be “always and never”. Yet, there are always opportunities to give praise when praise is due. This associates more with “internal client relations” as opposed to external clients and customers. You may be told that someone in your organization did a good job with something. Don’t keep that to yourself. It was said for a reason. If you’re the owner of the company, then it need not go anywhere else. However for anyone else, it wouldn’t hurt to pass that on to upper management. Careful how you go about it. A simple email restating the comment would, in my opinion, be sufficient, without crossing the line of proper email usage/etiquette. I’ve done it, and continue to do it. I think that it’s important for all of us to periodically be acknowledged for a job well done. It helps with morale, and with our satisfaction in our jobs and in our careers. Pay it forward.

Have an Idea!

In a past life (i.e. previous employer), I was once accused of frequently saying “I have no idea”. As a project manager, this was, to me, an unacceptable response, for any given situation. I internally denied the accusation, until I found myself saying it in my personal life! I vowed to never say it again, however it took some time for me to get to that point.

The lesson here is, have an idea! If someone asks you a question, and you truly don’t have an answer at that time, simply state that you’re unsure, and that you’ll find out and get back with the proper information. To this day, I hear people saying this all the time. And I cringe every time I hear it. We’re supposed to have an idea! That is what we’re paid for, right? Even when it’s something that you’re not expected to have an answer to, respond with something other than “I have no idea”. It just sounds bad. And the more you say it, the more it becomes entrenched in your vocabulary. Trust me. I know!

Tip of the Month: Honesty is the Best Policy. Don’t ever feel that you have to be “less than honest” about a situation. Unless you’re really good at it, most people will see through your fašade, and resent you for it. When I follow up with a prospective client, I appreciate their honesty, even if they tell me that they decided to go with my competition on their building automation system upgrade. It does nobody any good to try and “let someone down easy”. We’re all adults here, we can handle the truth. So go ahead and lay it on me!


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