Worth A Second Look

Ringing-doorbellThere are so many good books out there that I haven’t read yet that it’s a difficult decision for me to re-read a book. The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley is definitely worth a first and even a second read!  Kelley runs IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm that does remarkable work. One chapter in the book resonated with me: “The Doorbell Effect” talks about waiting…the pain, disappointment and confusion created when a service business forces customers to wait.

Kelley’s analogy is when you walk up to a door and ring the bell you have no idea what is happening on the other side.  Are they home? Are they hiding from you? You just wait until someone else makes a move. How does that apply to your business?

To me, communication – both internal and external – is the virtual Doorbell that either allows a firm to move forward or holds them back. Within your company, poor communication can create confusion, poor business practices and high staff turnover. Unless the firm’s leadership takes control of communication, the staff works according to their own priorities, manages clients as they choose and fails to support the mission of the firm.

Take that further and develop a standard for communicating with clients. How your staff treats clients is part of your company’s culture. Let me tell you a story that makes my point.

Recently a friend told me about her accountant, rather her former accountant. They didn’t return calls on a timely basis, ever. She asked for their thoughts on her business accounting processes, but didn’t get a response. She asked again, leaving a very specific message…nothing. She “rang the doorbell” four times, and nothing. So she took her business elsewhere.  She fired her old accounting firm by email (because they didn’t return her calls), telling them that they clearly didn’t value her business or her time.  Guess what. They never reached out see if they could save the relationship.

Eliminate “The Doorbell Effect” by creating best practices focused on client communication. Keep clients aware of the process for their project upfront. Will it take days, weeks, months…how many? How frequently will  you update them on progress?  Is it okay for them to call you with questions?  Never leave clients in the dark.  Set up a standard, develop the process and hold everyone in the firm to it.

Firms that commit to excellent communication are more likely to retain clients and improve referrals. It takes effort and a commitment to communicating with staff and clients