Ever play hide and seek? I bet you play it every day and don't even realize it. Technology and its acceptance in the business world has changed the way we exchange information with people reaching out to us. We have it so easy, and I am not saying that in a good way. The modern day game of hide and seek has become a practice of customers seeking and you hiding. You think you are ultra available and within reach of anyone that needs to get to you, and you should be. Just look at all the ways they can communicate with you -- cell phone, social media, landline, text message, and more. However, a further examination of the numbers shows us you are less responsive than ever. Looking at Twitter alone, only 30% of customer inquiries or complaints are typically responded to when initiated via that social channel. And only 44% of those that responded did so in under 24 hours. That is a failing grade. If you are working at building business relationships, you will need to focus more on communicating effectively with your customers.
Twitter is not the only ignored channel. Unreturned voicemail, text messages and emails are at an all-time high. If you are trying to send your customers to the competition, keep up the great work. Your silence speaks loud and clear. So, you say you don't have time to do it all? Continue the unresponsiveness and you will soon have more time on your hands and a lot less money, because your actions are killing your business. Building business relationships requires effort, practice and good habits. It's only a matter of time. Your customers and prospective customers will find another company to take their business to.
Here are a series of other business killing practices in need of change:
Not being available to answer the phone. If your first instinct is, "I will let that go to voicemail," you need a lesson on how to improve your customer service skills. If you are letting every call go to voicemail, you are keeping your customers waiting. A waiting customer is not a happy one.
Social media response must be quick. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social channels are amazing resources to connect you with the pulse of your client. If you personally can't respond quickly, you have two choices. First, employ a social media manager who will respond quickly and understands your message, and your brand. Second, disconnect your business from social if you can't respond quickly. A delayed response time is hurting your reputation and your business.
Not being present during meetings. Since you took the meeting to begin with, provide proper respect and be present during the meeting. That means, put your phone away, close your laptop, focus on the other person in the meeting, maintain eye contact and act like you care. While I believe the best meeting is no meeting at all, if you do have to have a meeting, there should absolutely be a purpose, goal and followup to the meeting. All of these will require that you are present and paying attention.
Under-delivering on promises made. Simple success principle: Make a promise, keep a promise. Under-delivering on a promise made is equivalent to lying. It may sound extreme, but so is under- delivering. Areas of most abuse include: "I'll call you right back." "I'll get back to you on that." "You'll have the proposal today."
Keep in mind your customer's perspective. Once you take your eye off your customer and start focusing on your needs, it won't take long before you start to lose your edge. Your customer wants to know you care and that you have their best interest at heart. Building business relationships is not about you, it's about them.
Slow response time to customer inquiries. While I realize "slow" is a relative word, response time is about expectation. Have a conversation with your customers so you are aware of what they expect from you, and so you can provide an idea of what is feasible for you. If your customer wants a call back in 2 hours and your plan is to call them back within 24 hours, there is a disconnect. One way to improve customer satisfaction is to come to a cooperative agreement on expectations.
Lack of knowledge about your industry, products and services. You don't need to know it all, but you do need to know where to get the answers. You want your customer to feel like you are a consultant and that you are the professional resource for all things within your industry. Included in the information pool would be knowledge of your competition and top industry trends, in addition to pricing and specs on all you offer.
Disorganization is a relationship killer. Does your desk look like a war zone? Do you have piles of paper everywhere you look? If your desk is a disorganized mess of cancelled checks, old contracts, projects forgotten and future work to be done, you are looking for trouble. You may think you have it all under control, but you don't. The disorganization is costing you time and money, and hurting your relationships.
Overwhelmed by your inbox. I once met with a HR executive who told me he had over 900 emails in his in-box. While he was embarrassed to say he would never get caught up, he confided in me that he was afraid if he shared this information with his boss, he would get fired, so he felt guilty deleting them, but had no choice. If your are overwhelmed by your in-box, you need to start making changes immediately and develop a system for addressing the issue. Stress, anxiety and pressure are the result of a bulging in-box.
Taking on too much responsibility. Three key factors are at play here and can help you prevent lost business and lost relationships. 1) Learn how to say "NO." 2) Learn how to delegate tasks more suitable for other's skill set. 3) Stop trying to be everything to everyone. You can't do it all and you are not an expert on everything. Building business relationships that last a lifetime involves being the best at the things you are most skilled at.
Be yourself, the script is much easier to learn. Oscar Wilde said it best, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." If you aren't already, become comfortable with who you are. Once you settle into your own skin, you will find people will be more attracted to you. The accumulation of stuff, the telling of far fetched stories and the use of name dropping to impress others is not necessary. People will like you because you are genuine, unique and legitimately you.
In order to develop long term business relationships, keep these business killing tactics out of your daily practices. Understand the importance of relationships in business and build winning habits. Relationships should take priority as you work a business plan, outline any products or services you offer and as you develop a mission for your business. Don't play the game of hide and seek with anyone you are trying to build a relationship with because it will eventually be a game you lose.
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