I got an email last week reminding me there were fewer than 90 days until the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association National Assembly. I was thrilled! You see, I have a friend, Anthony, who owns a promotional products company called Commercial Threadworks which, along with providing fun and interesting items for trade shows also offers custom embroidery. While it is possible to order “rush” giveaways (if you are like me and forget to put the “order by” dates in your calendar), those are not usually the giveaways that you want.
A continual problem
I may have mentioned that I work with some state associations and chapters on their annual meetings in addition to my own companies. So, unlike most companies that need trade show giveaways and have the luxury of placing a couple big orders throughout the year, I have what amounts to a lot of small companies that place one very time- and budget-sensitive order every year. Talk about a recipe for disaster and hard feelings.
Ordering custom promotional items is not at the top of my meeting planning “to do” list and the deadline will come and go before I know it. That leads to “rush” phone calls and emails which are time-consuming and frustrating for both of us. I hate hearing about the things I could have ordered if I had given Anthony more time and he hates that I am disappointed but rightfully points out that I could have had the items I wanted if I had ordered earlier. The last time it happened I mentioned that it would be really helpful if he sent out an email reminder ahead of time. If I would place the order on time, he would have plenty of time to fill it and we would both be happy. I got the email last week. He had not just heard what I had said; he had listened and implemented. Problem solved.
Whose problem is it?
All businesses, and business customers, face problems every day. Many of them face the same problem over and over. Making one small change can not only solve the problem but can lead to higher customer satisfaction. However, you have to be listening to your customers so you can hear what the problems are and you have to want to fix the problem, even if you do not think that it is “your” problem. I will be the first to admit that I am fully capable of placing an order for promotional products and that the website clearly states how long each item/order will take.
I will also admit that while everyone enjoys and appreciates said items, the deadline for ordering them is not an “urgent” deadline and the fact that the need for it only occurs once a year makes it even easier to forget. Anthony, on the other hand, thinks about deadlines and production time frames all day, every day. He would be right to think that he has provided me enough information and that it is my problem if I do not order on time.
The same can be said of making an appointment, whether it is for a doctor, dentist, prosthetist or hair dresser. If I make an appointment, it is my problem if I forget to write it down or forget to show up for it. Except that it is not. It becomes everyone else’s problem. So, what do most doctors, dentists, and hair dressers do? Call the day before and remind you.
Small solutions can make a big difference
Now is the time to take a good hard look at your customers’ and patients’ problems, which are your problems, and solve them. Remember it does not have to be a big problem and the solution does not have to be a big, expensive and time-consuming solution for it to have a big impact on the overall customer satisfaction. Make a phone call. Send a reminder email.
I would start with the people who answer the phones and/or staff the front office. They hear everything. The key will be getting them to listen and then it is up to you to implement.
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- Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing Solutions. She can be reached at email@example.com.