It's About Time
I sent email to an institution that shall remain unnamed. I offered something of value and asked with which department I should communicate. A month went by with crickets, then I received a reply that they would be delighted to receive the gift and to please send it to the address provided. The delay in communication was ascribed to a need to research the answer. I understand that a definitive response may take time, but don’t you think a brief, “Thanks for your email; I’ll be back in touch when I know more,” is a reasonable intermediate step? After all, maintaining a positive relationship with me could prompt my sharing future largess with them.
I’m sure you’ve got your own gripes. Maybe it was no answer in response to a message you left on someone’s voicemail or a curiosity if the online form you submitted went into the ether. Maybe you, too, have gotten zip-ah-dee-do-da to an email or letter asking a specific question. A lack of acknowledgment leaves me uncertain. Did it go to the right place? Was my missive received at all? Is this a sign that they don’t care to hear from me? The latter prompts me to wonder if I want to do business with (or support) them at all.
Every place I have ever worked had expectations regarding turn-around time for communication. It was part of the cultural norms of the organization and/or departments. I’m sure many employers still have standards and monitor compliance. But, alas, there are places where the “rules” either aren’t followed or are missing altogether. Then it’s left to the individual’s judgment—which (we know) can be dodgy.
Prioritization for who receives attention and in what order is a time management tenet we can all understand. My contention is that organizations who serve outside customers shouldn’t give internal communication exclusive priority. If they only serve themselves, they’ve lost sight of their purpose and might as well put out the “closed” sign. When they fail to respond to their public, the consequences can be serious; unpurchased products or services, reduced donations, fewer volunteers, insufficient votes to obtain funding. Added to that is the resultant reputation damage. Word of mouth has always been more efficient in promoting (or tanking) a business than any promotion could ever be. A rule of thumb is that people will tell five others about their bad experience with a business but only one other person about a good experience.
It's been over a year of business-not-as-usual. We can expect bumps as organizations ramp up but there is a point when the excuses for a lack of responsiveness run thin. We customers can only know we’re important if our inquiries are acknowledged. Please don’t disappoint us.
Thanks for listening. This ends our public service announcement.