Dialects are funny things.
They make two people speaking the same language sound completely different. And, if you aren’t careful, the message is lost is translation. In a social environment, miscommunication can be amusing. In your company’s processes, not so much.
A few years ago, I attended a series of pre-wedding parties in another state. At the outdoor brunch, a lady joined us. When the hostess asked where her husband was, she commented, “I left him in the hearse.” I looked around for reactions. No one seemed surprised by her response except me.
Since I am an avid subscriber to the “it is better to keep you mouth shut and be thought a fool then to open it and remove all doubt” philosophy, I kept my mouth shut. The rest of my day was spent pondering the options.
My thoughts ran rampant:
“Perhaps he was a mortician and was managing a funeral that day.” Why would he be left “in the hearse”?
“Could he be dead?” No, that couldn’t be it. No one seemed upset.
“Maybe he was a mechanic repairing the hearse.” That’s typically done on the outside.
“Could he be dead?” Well, if people didn’t like him, they might not be upset…
“It might be that he is a detail man cleaning the hearse.” Again, that is mostly done on the outside. It’s not as if the passengers are going to spill anything.
“Could he be dead?” Maybe, but isn’t it awfully hot to leave him in the hearse? I bet he is ripe by now.
“Got it! He converts station wagons to hearses.” No, we are in a farm community, not an industrial area.
“Could he be dead?” This is driving me crazy. I have to risk being thought the fool and ask.
I approached the bride and quietly asked, “Why did that lady leave her husband in the hearse?”
She responded, “He didn’t want to be outside.”
“Is he a mortician?” I asked.
She gave me the strangest look and burst out laughing. It turns out that the lady had left him in the house. Her dialect puts an “r” sound in house. Not only did I open my mouth and become the fool that day, it has provided many chuckles since.
A recent shopping experience triggered this trip down memory lane.
I needed vitamins and decided to save time by shopping online. One website had a special offer of buy 2 and get 1 free. I chose to place my order there because it saved time and money.
The shopping cart was configured so that you could only buy the promotional three pack. I ordered two of them. My order confirmation stated that I would receive six bottles. The shipping confirmation stated that they shipped six bottles.
Four days later, I received three bottles. The packing list noted that two bottles were ordered and one was free. It was marked “shipped complete.” It appears that the three-pack item on the website is linked to single bottles in the order management system. It is a miscommunication with far reaching effects.
Since this was my first order, I don’t have a relationship with the company. Their service determines whether I become a loyal customer or hit & run shopper. The top benefit, saving time, is gone because I have to communicate with them to resolve the issue.
And, they don’t make it easy. The confirmation email was sent from a “no reply” address, so I have to visit their website. The “contact us” link gives me a choice of a form or telephone number with an extension. The call goes to voicemail. I returned to complete the form. Two days have passed and I’m still waiting for a response.
Losing a customer is bad.
Paying to do it is worse. The customer service expense increases every time there is an issue. Resolution requires additional shipping costs or lost revenue if a refund is required.
Communication issues between the website and order management system create challenges but they don’t have to alienate customers. Be proactive by:
- Testing the process when creating special offers. One of their purposes is to attract new customers. Don’t let operational issues affect first impressions.
- Making it easy for customers to contact you. Do not use “no reply” email addresses. Place your contact information on every web page, including the telephone number.
- Responding quickly to every email or call. Dissatisfied customers don’t idle well. They zoom off to complain to their credit card company and friends.
- Apologizing. Sincerely.
- Making a peace offering. Send a small gift or discount on future orders. Acquisition costs are too high to let customers get away.