Beth Boen is on a mission at The VOICE Customer Service Training - to restore the lost art of providing exceptional customer service and turn the tide on poor customer service becoming the norm! Her blogs contain tips on how to provide exceptional customer service in everything you do!
Never Imply a Customer is Lying!
Three weeks ago, I was at a networking event. I met some great business people and I looked forward to making some connections with some of them.
Yesterday, one of those individuals emailed me to set up a more in-depth, one-on-one meeting...kind of a get to know each other, learn more about each other's business meeting. I love to network almost to a fault. I love it so much, I'd rather do that than be in the office working. She emailed me to find out when we could get together. I took an honest look at my calendar, took into consideration the Labor Day weekend holiday in which I have a friend coming into town. I took a look at all my client deadlines, workload, and existing commitments. Then, I responded that the soonest I could meet would be the week of 9/11. Here is the reply (not edited) she sent back to me:
Looking forward to getting together but... WOW.. Sept 11.. nothing for an hour between now and then?
I would prefer sooner vs somuch later.. thats almost 2 wks after request to meet :( Busy busy ...
I have alot of random availability and willingless to travel to meet you. I'm at colorado and I12 area.. where are you mostly?
What is your first REAL availability to connect. I have a network to intorduce you into that will provide alot of referal sources for you.
Looking forward to sharing.
So, you might ask - what's wrong with this email...maybe she was joking around.
- We hardly know each other. If she was just joking around, she shouldn't be using humor at this point of a business relationship. If this is her version of humor, I took it as a scolding, since I don't know her. A rather bold move for someone to make who could also benefit from my extensive network.
- Her email subject line (not shown here) was in all CAPS. CAPS in email conveys shouting. She further used all CAPS with the words WOW and REAL in her email response. Besides yelling in the email, she is implying that I am lying about my availability.
- If it is so urgent for her to meet with me, why did she wait three weeks to contact me?
- Typos, grammatical errors, and sloppy email writing is unprofessional. Read what you have written, re-read it, and pay attention to spell check. By the way, I'm not sure where I12 is in Colorado?! I've lived here since 2001 and never heard of it. I am assuming that is a typo as well.
- Using emoticons at the beginning of a business relationship with someone you don't know is unprofessional. She gave me a sad face in her email. I'm not sad, so why is she? Shouldn't she be happy for me that I am that busy? Shouldn't she be happy that I am waiting to have a meeting when I have the time to devote to a quality conversation?
I pondered on how to respond to this. I thought to myself that she knows I am a customer service trainer and she acknowledged in a previous conversation how so many businesses need this kind of training and some don't even realize it. So, I chose the following words:
I am an honest person and that is my first availability. I find the implication that I am not being honest a bit insulting.
I suppose I could have gone without the last sentence. We all have a weak moment when we might say the wrong thing. I thought about deleting it, but I decided that she needed to know how she came across. Some might call what I did as giving unsolicited feedback, but I am an honest person. I never said I didn't want to meet due to her unprofessionalism and poor customer service. It's more than 24 hours later and I have not heard from her again. I think she was offended by my email response. Maybe I should have said this in response,
Fortunately for me, I just booked three new customer service training engagements and my schedule is now booked out even farther. I will contact you when I can meet you within less than two weeks notice.
I wonder what her response would have been to that. I really did book three new customer service training workshops that morning. Would she have insinuated that I was lying about that?
The take-away: Some people think they have exceptional customer service and really don't even know what exceptional customer service is. A potential referral partner is a prospective "customer". You are trying to earn their trust so they will stake their reputation on you and give you their referrals. I could have introduced her to a good deal of people who would have been great connections for her business. As it stands now, we probably won't share our networks with each other.