Most of us care about doing our jobs well, and about the relationships we have with clients. But "The Energy Bus" author Jon Gordon says your actions might be sending the opposite message.
Here, he spotlights seven things you unknowingly do that tell others: “I don’t care.”
You fail to touch base on projects. Sure, you’re busy, and sure, clients can always call you if they need an update. The problem is, when people don’t hear from you they naturally assume the worst: “I just know he hasn’t done what he said he’d do.” Or, “I bet she’s only doing the bare minimum.”
When you don’t proactively reach out to provide information and updates, it seems as though you don’t care about others’ concerns.
“The solution is simple: touch base often,” says Gordon. “Don’t force your colleague to ask if you’ve finished compiling those statistics, for instance; send an email saying you’ve done so. Actually, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of sending daily or weekly updates not only to team members, but to clients, too.”
You wait too long to respond to calls or emails. (And sometimes you don’t respond at all.) Often, hours or days pass before you reply to a colleague or client’s questions. (Hey—you have about 200 more important things on your to-do list!) And sometimes, enough time passes that responding completely slips your mind.
“You may not think a slow response is a big deal, but the other person probably does,” notes Gordon. “Even if you truly don’t have time to deal with the matter immediately, it’s easy enough to send a text or email saying, ‘I got your message and will touch base later.’ Whenever possible, try not to leave any unanswered emails or voicemails overnight.”
You forget customer preferences. Part of providing good service is remembering that Mr. Smith dislikes being called on his cell phone after 6:00 p.m., and that Mrs. Jones always wants to work with a specific vendor.
“When you don’t keep records of these things, customers will conclude that they don’t matter to you,” notes Gordon. “Keep a file on each client, and take a few moments to record their preferences after each interaction.”
You nickel and dime them. Yes, you and your customers know that your relationship is based on an exchange of money for goods or services. And of course you shouldn’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. But obsessively keeping track of every minute and every coin doesn’t sit well with clients. It makes them think your first priority is not taking care of them, but getting everything that’s owed to you.
“Try to balance the bills you send against the long-term value of your client relationships,” advises Gordon. “For instance, if you spend an extra hour or two outside your contract, consider not itemising that time on your next bill. The customer will likely sing your praises and send you plenty of referrals.”
You “hand off” customers to a different agent and never personally contact them again. Sure, if you’re the owner of the company or the leader of a team, you can’t personally take care of every single client’s needs. But you can call or email each of them from time to time to let them know they’re still getting your attention. This is especially important if you conducted the initial meetings or signed a contract with a certain client.
“In my business, I make it a priority to respond personally to readers who ask me questions via email, Facebook, and Twitter,” Gordon shares. “While I could hand these tasks off to members of my staff, I truly do appreciate that readers care enough to take the time to contact me—and by engaging with them individually, I am showing them that I care, too.”
You listen with half an ear. You know how this goes: You make the appropriate noises during a client call (“Mmmhmmm…I understand…No, that won’t be a problem…”) while simultaneously typing an email to someone else. You may think you’re getting away with multitasking, but Gordon says the other person can usually tell that your attention is divided, and will feel unimportant as a result.
“Giving a client or colleague your full attention is so meaningful,” he points out. “Being fully present says, ‘I really care about you and what you need. You are my top priority right now.’”
You neglect to ask about things going on in their personal lives. Whether you’re interacting with a client, you may think that keeping the conversation focused on business is a sign of professionalism. But actually, says Gordon, it can paint you as a rather callous individual—especially if the other person is going through a difficult time.
“Ask others what’s going on in their personal lives, and follow up,” recommends Gordon. “Express your sympathy when a client’s parent passes away, and your willingness to help when a colleague is dealing with a health crisis. It’s so easy to spend five minutes making these connections before getting down to business—and it means so much.”