How do your customers like working with you?
Customer (in this context) can be either external or internal.
External customers are what we think of as the ‘traditional’ customer.
Internal customers can be anyone who is upstream or downstream in the value chain: colleagues, direct reports, managers, suppliers, contractors.
We all like it when our customers are easy to do business with (ETDBW). It makes our jobs and our lives easier. The reverse is also true: others like it when we’re ETDBW.
Some behaviors make us ETDBW. Others make us difficult to work with. Which of these do you do on a consistent basis?
- Reply to a request when a reply is needed.
As one of my colleagues likes to say, “Don’t make me have to come and hunt you down.” Do people get a timely response from you, or do their requests disappear into a black hole? Nothing says “unprofessional” like a complete lack of response.
2. Reply with a thank you when you’ve asked for help and help is given.
As humans we’re social creatures. If you’re the one who’s asked for help, and someone else has helped you, the law of reciprocity kicks in. Neglecting to give thanks violates this fundamental human norm. Besides, how much will anyone want to help you the next time?
3. Refuse to play the “Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: FYI see below” game
You’re busy. But so are your customers. Why make them go on the hunt for “find the logic in the email thread” game when you’ve already done the work to make sense of it? Have this insane game stop with you. Bonus points for changing the subject line so it accurately reflects the meaning of the subject.
4. Invite only the people who should attend meetings rather than a mass invite.
What if only the right people were in the room at the right time? What if meeting invitations weren’t a subset of the CYA (Cover Your Ass) School of Business? (This is also where you find the “reply all” email culture.
If you (and your customers) only attended the appropriate meetings, how much of your life would you get back? This of course, means that meetings would have to be well-planned and well-run, which is a whole other topic.
5. Provide context/direction when sharing large amounts of information at once.
This past week, I was sent a zip file with the instructions “Please read for background on this account.” When I opened the zip file, there were 6 folders, each of which had 7-10 documents. Some of these documents were 40 pages long. No other instructions were sent.
Why overwhelm your customers with a flood of info? Put yourself in their shoes. If you were receiving this, what would help you to understand it? Where would you need to start? Then provide them with the adequate navigational tools.
6. Pick up the phone to dispel confusion.
Let’s face it: communication can be difficult. Sometimes wires get crossed. There’s a time and a place for email, but twenty back and forth email exchanges may not be the best way to solve your problem. Sometimes, a quick phone call can cut through the confusion and get you sorted out. It also adds a more human touch.
7. Give plenty of advance notice of deadlines.
No one likes getting requests at the last minute if the urgency can be avoided. Late notification creates stress, and no one does their best work under extreme stress. Also, don’t create false deadlines. No one wants to bust their hump to get something in for a deadline, only to find out later that the deadline was only an imaginary buffer that you made up arbitrarily.
Actions become habits. Habits create our reputation. What reputation do you want to create in the hearts and minds of your customers?
What other ways can you tell if you’re easy to do business with? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.