No news is still good customer service

If a customer calls to inquire about a product that you are servicing for them, and you do not have the information, you must tell the customer that you will find the information for them and when you will be getting back to them. Not calling them until you have the information – which might take several days or longer — is terrible customer service.

So many times, salesmen and service technicians think that it is OK to delay returning the customer’s call until they have some information to pass on. However, this is an awful policy because the customer does not know that you are looking for the answer. How would they know that you have not just forgotten about them or neglected to relay a message?

We had a kitchen stove go out on us, and cooking without a stove is tough. The local dealer did not carry the part that was needed for the repair, and it had to be ordered. When the dealer discovered the part was on backorder, they said they would get back with me and update me on the status of the order when they heard something.

I did not hear from them the next day, so I called the dealer’s service department and was told in a very negative tone, “We said we would call you when we hear when your part will be in!” I explained how important it was for me to have a rough idea of when the part would arrive, but was told that they would call when they knew.

I continued to call each day. It was not that I wanted to harass the dealer, but I just wanted to know when we would no longer have to think about going out for dinner. Was I trying to get the part sooner? No, not really. I just wanted to know when our lives would return to normal.

What should the dealer have done differently? All they had to do was call me each day and update me on the progress. It would have even been OK to call and tell me that they did not know anything new. Then, at the very least, I would have known that I had not been lost or forgotten.

A standard script would be helpful in cases like these. A technician could say something like, “I apologize, but we still have not heard from our supplier. If we do not hear from them by tomorrow, we will call them back.”

This all goes back to great communications. Each and every business must ensure that its communications with its customers are done in such a way that each one feels good about the interaction. Look at it this way, not communicating with a customer is still communicating, but the message being sent is all negative.

Now go out and make sure that you have a system in place to ensure customers receive periodic reports about the status of their orders or repairs.

Jerry Osteryoung, the Director of Outreach of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University, the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship; and Professor of Finance, can be reached at 850-644-3372.