Persist, insist, but don’t harass

I received an e-mail today that was so blunt and disturbing in so many ways that I simply had to post about it.

Brief background: a couple of weeks ago, as part of starting up the Romanian operations for my current  employer (yes, this is why I was silent, I found an outlet for my creativity and organization skills, and the collaboration promises to be fruitful), I was requesting price quotes and terms of cooperation for a variety of suppliers. The final decision is not mine, as I am a new employee in my first 90 days as a manager, so oversight and guidance is needed. Also, the operation is new, so as a separate cost center we need to carefully assess all expenses and contracts. And they are so many.

Bottom line, I do no yet have answers on all offers tendered. We comparison shopped for the most important, and kept the others in abeyance, until we had time to devote to them. Here, I’ve made an error: I should have let suppliers know that the process is still ongoing. My bad. My only explanation is the time crunch I’m under, but I’m aware that’s no excuse.

However, my lack of feedback is no excuse for the following e-mail:

“Hello, The lack of a reaction means a negative reaction. Feedback only takes one minute. So tell me, are you interested or not? Thank you.”

The general principle of customer service is that the customer is always right. On this one, however, the customer is plainly wrong. But you still have to treat him with respect, and it is not your job as a service provider to teach him proper behavior. If the customer’s misbehavior is egregious, you just cease commercial relations, If not, tread gently.  This e-mail could have been formulated differently, for example:

“Dear Madam,

The offer we have tendered on such and such date is rapidly approaching its expiration date, and we’ve yet to receive feedback from you. Please let me know if you have reached a decision or, if not, if I can provide any additional information that might aid you in the process.

Sincerely,”

Such an approach balances a sense of urgency (offers do have limited validity, so I perceive your reminder not as self-serving, for your monthly sales and lead report, but as a gentle service to me) with helpfulness and a show of desire to have me as a customer.

So, sales people, I know you are under pressure, and our lack of concern as clients is often frustrating, but keep in mind that you are forging a potential relationship and bluntness seldom helps.

To be honest, the author of the e-mail later apologized for the tone, and I respect them for that. And I understand that having reported that they sent me an offer, they are probably asked about the outcome on a regular basis, and feel the pressure. I can’t however understand a company that does not teach its employees how to deal with situations when the customer is not right, but still must be courted. I certainly hope my employees will learn that.

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Filed under Communication, Customer service

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