When I was seventeen, I hitchhiked from Kansas City to Denver overnight. When I arrived that morning, I decided to try to find a job right away. I planned to hitchhike to a shopping mall in hopes of finding work as a delivery person or doing some other form of manual labor. I’m standing at the side of a very busy four-lane road with my thumb out, hoping for a ride, and a police car pulls up behind me. Hitchhiking was illegal within Denver city limits. The cops asked the usual police-type questions about who I was, where I’d come from, and what I was doing. I was pleasant and cooperative, so they offered to give me a ride to the shopping mall in their police cruiser! When we got to the mall, I thanked them profusely and got out. I went into the mall and found a job delivering water beds for the day. (I doubled my assets that day!) I later told my dad about what happened with the police and how helpful they’d been. He sent a thank you note to the Denver Chief of Police expressing his gratitude for the kindness the officers had shown me. The Chief sent my father a note thanking him for his thank you note and explained that he wasn’t accustomed to receiving thank you notes. Here’s where the plot thickens. The Chief’s letter, on Denver PD stationery, arrived while my father was out of town for a meeting. My mother picked up the mail and saw a letter addressed to my father from the Denver police department. My parents totally respected each other’s space, so there was no way that my mother was going to open a letter addressed to my dad. To make matters worse, he was unreachable for several days, so she had to live with the unopened letter from the Denver police department until she was able to connect with my dad. It had to drive her crazy! I’m sure she imagined the worst. Her youngest son, who’d been a bit of a troublemaker, was in Denver, and here was a letter to her husband from the Denver PD. Of course, when she was finally able to open the letter, she realized that everything was fine, but she must have had several anxious days.

The Point of Communication

Here’s my point, when we don’t know what’s going on, we tend to fill in the blanks and it’s almost never good.

Why Communication is So Important

That’s why it’s so important to communicate with your end users, other customers, colleagues, and bosses. Even if you have nothing to report, that’s something. Let them know that nothing has changed, but that you’re still working on it. When our customers or colleagues have a case open or we’re working on a project, it’s important to check-in from time-to-time to let the affected people know what’s happening. Some people may not care, but most people don’t like being in the dark. They want status updates. It only takes a moment or two to send a quick email letting them know where things stand, even if there’s no change. You could also send a text or chat message. It may even be appropriate to make a quick phone call, depending on the nature of the issue or project and the communication preferences of the person or people with whom you’re working. Of course, it’s possible to go overboard with status updates, so use some good judgement and discretion to avoid flooding inboxes. If you’re not sure how much communication is appropriate, ask. The point is to keep the affected people informed.

Customer Service Masters are Also Masters of Communication

The masters of customer service know the importance of ongoing communication. Never leave your customers, colleagues, or bosses wondering about the status of an issue or a project. Always be proactive in your communication. You never want them to make a call or send an email to you checking on the status of your work. It should always be you who contacts them. If things are running behind, send a status update. If things are running ahead, send a status update. If there’s nothing to report, send a status update. In the absence of communication, our customers and colleagues fill in the blanks and it’s almost never good. Communicate!

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

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