No matter what you do for a living, if you run a company you will at some point have to answer questions from the public. Might be an investor, a partner, an employee, a journalist, a customer, or even a member of Congress.
Now this may sound obvious, but most of the time people have better things to do than sit down and contact a company with their concerns. So if they’re exercised enough to write to you, there is probably something significant on their minds.
And while you may think it’s easy to simply respond, here are a few tips that may help you build your reputation for integrity and customer service by handling public inquiries effectively.
1.Mechanics: Acknowledge the inquiry. Give the question a ticket number. Answer within a reasonable period of time. Make it clear to your customer when they should expect to hear from you.
2.Basic Content: When you answer the question, get to the point immediately. Make sure you answer all the questions or comments the person raised. Keep responses short and provide links to further information. Don’t answer more than was originally asked.
3.Scope: Be thorough.Go the extra mile to offer alternatives, options and resources. However, don’t speculate about things you don’t know or can’t back up.
4.Attitude: Talk like a grownup talking to a grownup – not condescending and not robotic. Be respectful. Be compassionate. Explain your reasoning or the basis for what you’re saying. Take responsibility as appropriate – some complaints simply have nothing to do with you.
5.No-Nos: Do not ask your technical experts to write. Check for spelling errors. Even a minor error makes you look unprofessional, careless and untrustworthy.
Here’s the most important thing to remember: Be present. Focus on this person, this inquiry, this moment in time.
Think about how they will feel when they read your response. Imagine that you botch it and your customer is completely furious – vowing never to do business with you again.
Or, the opposite – they are surprised and delighted by the personalized, professional, comprehensive answer they got from you. At your humanity, your intelligence, and most of all your accountability to the brand promise.
People have such a short attention span these days; they demand instant gratification; it’s hard to keep their business.
Focus your answers on keeping the customers you have.
All opinions my own.
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