September 2015

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Client Relations – Revisited
(One of Two)

More words of wisdom

Steven R Calabrese

Steven R. Calabrese
Control Engineering Corp.

Contributing Editor

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A couple of years ago, I wrote a two-part series on client relations. Each installment consisted of five business practices, shall we say, that made for good customer relations. Things that are fairly common sense, however maybe not always at the forefront of our busy minds. Mind you, these are things that I’ve managed to come up with over the years, and not necessarily based in fact or even the general consensus. And as I told my readers back then, I wasn’t attempting to preach or anything, I was just trying to share some things that I thought were good sense. Heck, I’m sure there were those that even completely disagreed with some of the things that I had to say. But if any one thing stuck with any one reader, then it was worth it.

More recently I had the opportunity to share the message of these two columns with my coworkers, in a presentation that I gave in front of a couple dozen of them. The presentation was well-received, and I thought that maybe I’d share a few more of these little tidbits…

Mick, Mikey, Michael, or just Mike

I know a lot of Davids. Most of them go by the more laid back nickname of Dave. However, there a couple of Daves who prefer to go by their full name. I also know a lot of Bobs (who doesn’t?). A certain Bob that I know, who’s about 6’4” and 300 pounds, prefers that you him Robert. Call him Bob once, you get corrected. Call him Bob twice, you get served!

The point is, just because you’re used to calling people you know by the more casual shortenings, or nicknames, of their full name, doesn’t mean that that’s the case wholesale. In other words, call people by the name they introduce themselves to you as. My full name is Steven. I go by Steve. I introduce myself as Steve. I don’t mind it if people call me Steven. But I know certain people that do mind if you call them by something other than what they prefer. It’s a matter of respect.

My son’s name is Anthony. We call him Anthony. Some call him Tony. Time will tell what his ultimate preference will be; that’s up to him, but the wife and I like Anthony. I have a colleague that goes by either. By contrast, I have a customer that goes strictly by Tony, and another that goes strictly by Anthony. The moral of the story is, call people by what they want to be called, not by what you think they should go by.

Spelling Lessons

Improper spelling is a pet peeve of mine. With computer programs equipped with automatic spell checking, we really shouldn’t be misspelling too many words anymore, especially when generating important documents such as formal letters, specifications, sequences of operation, and scope documents. Typos will still occur, especially when you’re ripping through a response to an email trying to get out the door to your next appointment! But in general, spelling words incorrectly should be a few-and-far-between occurrence.

On a more personal level is when you misspell someone’s name. First names aside, it’s the last name that you got to get right. You typically need to get it right for their email address, why not on the letter that you sent them? No excuse. Doing so shows that you are not attentive to details, and less attentive to the needs of the customer. Not saying that you don’t care about the customer, or that each and every customer will take offense at you misspelling their name (or even noticing it for that matter). Just saying, if you have to get it right in order to send them an email (and have them receive it), then you may as well be spelling it correctly in the attachment!

Honor Your Commitments

This is something you simply have to do. If you commit to being somewhere, meeting with someone, or having something done for someone by a certain date, you need to follow through. It’s as simple as that. How about when you run into unforeseen circumstances? Flat tire? Kid sick at school and you need to go get him? What about the weather? Rain? Snow? All of these are justifiable. The point that I’m trying to make is, whatever the situation, you always need to try your best to honor your commitment. It’s easy to call and reschedule. Problem is, if you do it once, you do it again, and then it becomes a habit that’s difficult to shake.

This past winter, we had our share of snow. Okay, more than our share. On a particular Sunday in January, the snow began to fall. I shoveled once before bedtime, and again in the morning. I had to brush my car off and dig myself out of over seven inches of snow that Monday morning. I had an appointment about 10 miles from home. I called the customer, not to cancel, but to make sure that he made it in that morning. Well, he did. And so I was going to keep the appointment. If he was able to make it in to work, not even knowing what his commute was but figuring it was more than the trip that I was about to make to see him, then I was going to honor my commitment.

On the flipside…when I show up for an appointment, and the person that I am supposed to meet is not there, and this happens more often than you’d think, then I feel a sense of entitlement. Not that I ever express that, but it’s true. If someone “blows me off”, even though not intentionally, I feel like they owe me. I of course cordially reschedule the appointment, often to an apologetic client, and move on. Hopefully down the road that karma kicks in, and I’m rewarded as such, for honoring my commitments to the extent that is within my control.

Did You Get My Proposal?

Back in my last series of columns dedicated to this topic, I wrote about how it’s “proper etiquette” to acknowledge an email with a response, especially if the email has an attachment such as a letter or a proposal. When I send out proposals via email, I expect to get a “thanks” from the recipients of those emails. Otherwise, how am I to know for certain that the proposal was received on the other end? It’s just a common courtesy, to let the sender know that you have received their correspondence. It is much appreciated, when I do receive that reply, and it serves as a record that the “sendee” indeed received the email and attachment (whether or not they read it is a different matter altogether!).

[an error occurred while processing this directive] So what happens if some of those recipients don’t respond to acknowledge that they received your email? In my opinion, I believe that it’s up to me to follow up to make sure that the message was delivered and received. It’s in my best interests. I could send another email asking if they got it. But I prefer to pick up the phone and contact the recipient verbally. Maybe I get their voicemail, but leaving a voice message, in my experience, is more of a sure thing than sending another email. I believe that the more emails an individual is inundated with, the less attention each of those emails gets. In other words, it’s easy to “ignore” emails, whereas it’s difficult to blow off a voicemail. In addition, if I do get lucky enough to reach the recipient “live”, then I get that opportunity to talk to them! Ask them if they received my proposal, ask them if they have any questions or concerns, and maybe find out a little bit more about their intentions, through their inflections, answers to my questions, responsiveness, etc. Anyway, the moral of the story is, you need to do your own follow-ups to make sure that an important email has been received, in the event that you do not get a quick response or acknowledgment from the recipient.

Tip of the Month: Two words…basic respect.


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