By David J. Fry, MPS, CDT - President/CEO
Effective Advancement Strategies
To the surprise of some, this article is not about privacy or security in the workplace or at home. It’s really a much simpler concept, which for some reason is being overlooked. With that in mind, after reading this, you might want to do a quick review of your processes, policies, and more, to ensure that the impression you’re leaving fits with your brand, goals, messaging, and intentions.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to correspond with several types of businesses and organizations via their “customer service” or “info” emails. In addition, I have had a few direct-contact emails sent to groups relaying important considerations, grant opportunities, etc. What did I hear in return from an overwhelming majority? Crickets.
While I am not a fan of automated replies, they are better than nothing. Here is what is puzzling. We spend a good deal of time and money putting together an electronic façade to impress our customers and prospects yet spend much less for the servicing phase. Since this phase represents the human connection, it is important we get it right. Here are four reasons why.
1. First Impressions
You know the adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It is the same with your email. If you are not responding immediately and professionally, then you are leaving an impression with that customer or prospect. At the very least you should have a policy that every incoming email is responded to within 24 hours.
Now some might say – do you realize the volume we get? Well, that’s where an automated email can help soften the blow. Perhaps the return response is something like this. Your communication is important to us, and a member of our team will contact you within x number of business days. Thank you for your patience while we meet the needs of previous requests. If you use it, be sure to follow through after making the promise. If you are already doing this piece, then great!
2. Delivery Confirmation
How does the customer/prospect who sent the request through your system, know that you are in receipt? Most will be satisfied in knowing that their communication reached its destination, not expecting a lengthy response. A simple, “Thank you for contacting us, we’ll be in touch soon.” could suffice. However, there are so many out there in limbo, not knowing the status, which is frustrating them. It is certainly not a recipe for continued business. A response like the one mentioned in first impressions is a quick fix through your website or email provider, and it gives the much-needed delivery confirmation for your customer. Surprisingly, I received notification from about 10% of the inquiries.
3. Branding and Messaging
Since your email response is representing your organization, you want to be sure the person(s) charged with responding understand(s) the levity of their responsibility. Organizations tend to relegate the duty to a lower-paid position conveying a lower priority to the job. There’s nothing further from the truth. This person should be reinforcing your brand, your voice, and the current messaging. My communications with “ABC corporation” will leave a lasting impression and help me decide if I want to be an avid supporter of the business or organization, or a one-time customer or donor. Be sure it is consistent. It will also help to validate the image you think you are projecting, so give it the time and talent it deserves.
Because there is a lack of businesses and organizations that excel at this simple task, it is easy to become a STAR in the space. In Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate she reminds us when giving a presentation it is recommended that you drive home your idea by leaving the audience with a STAR (Something They’ll Always Remember.) It is not all that different here. Dedicating the time and resources to ensure you’re responding to your email appropriately and uniquely can make your business or organization the one “they’ll always remember.” Not doing it, will have the same impact, but in a negative way.
Responses to email may seem like an elementary topic, but why then are so many, so bad about doing it well? In one instance, I emailed an organization to let them know that its website was lacking a key piece of information and it was a simple fix. I did not receive a “thanks for calling it to our attention,” or even a simple “thank you” reply. That speaks volumes to a person, leaves a negative impression, and erodes trust in your future abilities to serve.
When conducting a communications audit, I like to look at the outgoing emails first, because it gives me the best feel for the prevalent communications. Of course, we look at things like signage, telephone scripts and greetings, websites, social media, and more, but email is one of the most overlooked communication forms for monitoring.
Yes, it is simple. Yes, it is often taken for granted. Yes, it is time you took a look at yours.