The team has worked their backsides off trying to win a new account. The signature comes back, and the Purchase Order arrives soon after. Time to exceed customer expectations. A kickoff call is scheduled and introductions are made. Post kickoff call, project details are sent back to the client for approval, and we’re off and running. The first month of the account leads to fine-tuning specifics, establishing a main point of contact and on-time deliverables. A call cadence is established and the account is in good shape. Fast forward six months later. The deliverables are still timely and error-free, but the call cadence has fallen off the Hillary Step of Everest.
Email communication becomes the norm and sometimes even text messages. It’s assumed (you know what that means) everything is going along just fine. However, it’s uncovered that an element of the deliverable hasn’t been used or isn’t functioning properly. The issue escalates to Executive Management on both sides and then the firestorm begins. The account went from a strong candidate for renewal to being in jeopardy of falling into the abyss of non-renewable accounts.
Has this ever happened to you? Ok, maybe not as dramatic, but I think we have all been there. This happened to me, and it was a refreshing slap of reality across my face. We get busy with daily operations, tactical thinking and oh yeah; there’s that thing called LIFE which can be challenging at times. Complacency sets in and the theory of “No news is good news,” becomes commonplace. Complacency is not a good trait to have in the workplace (or anywhere for that matter).
It’s time to problem-solve. Don’t waste time pointing fingers; it is what it is. The immediate action item is to establish verbal communication over the phone or if budget allows, a physical visit. Nobody picks up their phone nowadays, but you must pick up the phone, dial the number and leave a voicemail. It works! I have seen myself do it! Now, the next step is to follow up with an email which regurgitates what you said in the voicemail. It’s documented this way. However, you’re far from done on problem resolution. Persistence is essential, and the phone call regiment continues until you get your contact on the phone and actually talking. It’s equally important to have a team in place who are aware of the issue. Call them too! There’s a good chance the issue will need the assistance of a few others based on their core competencies. The team will also be ready to troubleshoot and answer any questions which requires a skill where you might have to go back to school, take out another student loan and take multiple classes just to become a novice. Another important element to the firestorm is to have a scribe in place so pertinent information can be captured for the team to refer to if need be. Again, more documentation. Finally, be ready to have solutions / options to present, but also be ready to listen.
Chances are, you’ll hear a lot of frustration on the other line and rightfully so. Admit you will take full ownership of the issue and come prepared with a set of solutions /options in place. It’s also important to assure this type of disconnect will not take place again, and communicate to your client there have been steps to ensure it doesn’t. Be sure to implement several quality checks and tests after the issue has been resolved. Then you can report back (AND CALL) to your client you’re on top of the matter. This shows loyalty to the client and a concern for the success of the client as well as the success of your organization.
Finally, call the client frequently (in addition to the regularly scheduled calls) to make sure everything is working for them. If there is something else which would provide value to your existing products / services for your client, this would be the time to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
So, at the end of the day, imagine what might have happened if a phone call was made instead of unanswered emails or texts. Remember exactly how you felt when the issue was escalated to Executive Management. Remember your clients’ success or lack of if you don’t stay in constant communication. It’s time to turn back the technological clock and stop counting on electronic messaging to communicate important information. Even if there’s nothing going on, there’s no harm to pick up the phone and say ‘Hi.’
Electronic messaging is integral. Now, picking up the phone is perceived as a necessary evil. Let’s change that to electronic messaging is the necessary evil and talking is personable. So pick up the phone, but please don’t let it be a rotary phone.