Black Holes: Keep Your Customers Updated

Giving your customers regular updates, even if only to say that there aren't any updates, is often better than leaving them in the dark. Leaving questions unanswered is sure to exacerbate any minor problems that currently exist. Give your customers more respect than that.

When I had a technical problem and sent a message to the online support address, I immediately received an automated acknowledgement advising me that I’d be contacted within 48 hours with a response to my problem. I appreciated receiving this acknowledgement because it reassured me that my problem had been received. But 48 hours later, nothing. And 72 hours later, nothing. And ... you guessed it. It’s been more than a year and a half now, and still nothing.

My problem seems to have fallen into the black hole, that dark, dank place in the cosmos that swallows things up, never to release them. This experience is hardly unique. Dozens of people, possibly including some of your own customers, have told me about problems they’ve had that fell into the Black Hole. When I’ve asked what they mean, they’ve told me about submitting queries or requests or even simple questions and never hearing back. No response, no explanation, no clue as to the status of the situation — or even when they’ll be advised of the status.

What a clogged, congested place the black hole must be.

Who knows, maybe after a hundred thousand years, it will eject its contents and customers will get the responses they’ve been waiting for. But most customers aren’t that patient. For some customers, not being notified of the status of a problem is even more aggravating than not having a resolution to it. Not knowing, and not knowing when they’ll know, makes them angry. And that anger is exacerbated when they’ve been told that they will hear back within 48 hours. True, sometimes things take longer than promised. Sometimes you just don’t know how long it will take to resolve the problem or deliver the result. And no one likes to tell a customer “I don’t know and I don’t know when I will know.”

But most customers would rather know that than nothing at all. That’s why savvy professionals regularly update their customers, even if only to say that there’s been no change since the last update. If customer satisfaction matters to you and your management, periodically ask yourself, Who has submitted a problem and wants to know what’s happening? Who is expecting a follow-up call or awaiting an answer or an email update? Then contact those people. Don’t contribute to the black hole. It’s crowded enough there without your help.

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