I got a lot of feedback on my recent blog post “It’s all about Communication”. It sparked a number of conversations between myself and MSP’s who were interested in the term I used, “over communicating”. Why would you ever communicate more than is necessary with a client? Won’t that just annoy them?
There are plenty of reasons why you would over-communicate, but I’ll use one example scenario that just about every MSP is familiar with.
An example for MSP’s
A clients Broadband Internet connection goes down. The client is furious, as their MD is wanting to send an important e-mail to an important client.
You spring into action. As well as taking responsibility for telephoning the clients ISP, you make arrangements for an engineer to rush to site with a 3G dongle, so the MD can temporarily get on-line. He does, and the important e-mail is sent.
Hours pass, and you continue to chase the clients ISP for updates. Nothing changes, so you don’t bother calling the client, but you’re comfortable knowing that the client has at least sent that e-mail and they know it’s the ISP’s fault for this whole issue, not yours.
Once the Broadband comes back on later that day, you telephone the client to receive the accolades. They’re furious. Rather than get the pat on the back you’re expecting for getting the client on-line with the 3G dongle, you’re told how annoyed the MD was that the company was down for a day. Apparently, Alison in Accounts couldn’t send an very important invoice, and Steve in accounts couldn’t even catch up on old e-mails through Outlook Web Access that would enable him to make Credit Control calls on his Mobile phone. Neither Steve nor Alison bothered to call you to report this, as they assumed it was part of the bigger problem they were experiencing that day.
To (sort of) quote Guns’n'Roses…
To butcher the words of the famous Guns’n’Roses song – “What we have here is failure to over communicate”.
Now change the above scenario so that you over-communicate with the client throughout the day. You telephone them every 30 minutes or so, even if there is nothing significant to report.
As well as dispatching the engineer to site with a 3G dongle, you ‘phone the client to advise the engineer has left the office, and then you agree with your engineer that they will telephone you when they’ve reached site. You telephone the MD to advise the engineer has arrived.
30 minutes later, as agreed, your engineer telephones you to advise the MD’s e-mail has been sent. You telephone the MD to confirm this.
Multiple ‘phone calls to the ISP that morning yield no information. Yet you telephone the client contact to advise you’ve made the ‘phone calls, and you’ve got a message in to the clients Account Manager at the ISP to find out what the problem is.
Later that morning, the ISP tells you that the problem is with a group of builders digging the road nearby who have cut through the cable that feeds the clients Broadband – you ‘phone the client to relay this information along with a realistic estimate of when this will be resolved – even if it’s not what the client wants to hear. You close the call by asking if there are any other problems that you aren’t aware of. You’re told that Alison in accounts desperately needs to send an invoice to arrive that day. You talk Alison through using the 3G dongle on her own computer to send the invoice via GoogleMail, using the “Send As” feature so that their client doesn’t see Alison’s GoogleMail address.
You ‘phone again a short time later to advise that you’re still awaiting a call back from the ISP’s Account Manager, but you’re chasing them stressing the urgency of the problem. Are there any other problems you can help with? Apparently, Steve in Accounts uses Outlook Web Access, but he currently can’t access it to even read an old e-mail.
You’re puzzled why Steve is using Outlook Web Access when he has Microsoft Outlook on his PC, but you help him configure the Outlook client on his PC where he can start to read his old e-mails, even without an Internet connection.
For the remainder of the day, you telephone the client regularly, even if there is no update. Far from getting a verbal bashing, your client contact uses the opportunity to enquire about e-mail continuity solutions so that the next time this situation occurs, they are better prepared.
Once the client is back on-line, they’re still unlikely to give you the pat on the back you want – but they *will* remember the fact that you helped them overcome those obstacles and most importantly, held their hand through the entire issue. It wasn’t a case of the client –vs- you in a war of wills, it was a case of you fighting the clients corner.
Failure to Communicate
If you’re still unconvinced, think about how you felt the last time you were at the Airport and your flight was delayed, yet nobody from the airline had made an announcement of any type and you felt sheepish bothering the Check-In desk to ask what the problem was. Even once you’d flown home, you probably felt angry and frustrated enough to vow never to use the Airline again. If only the Airline had announced the situation, and advised you that you’d got time to go and get a drink and something to eat from the nearby Starbucks.
Look at it from a clients perspective
Now think about how your client feels about you when they’re experiencing a similarly frustrating situation.
If you agree, but are not sure what to do to make sure you don’t fall into the traps given in the above scenario – try this.
Sit down and think about how that scenario would play out in your own MSP business for your top client, and then write down how you’d probably tackle it, including noting the contact names and telephone numbers of people (the ISP Tech Support line, the ISP System Status page URL, the ISP’s Account Manager) you’d need to ring to chase on behalf of the client. Jot down all the potential problems the client might be experiencing, and the simple solutions.
That piece of paper is now your first draft of a “Broadband Outage” process to be added to your Company Operations Manual. It can be used by any member of your staff to deal with (and improve upon during) an emergency situation for a client.
I feel I’ve over-communicated this point enough now. If you have any comments or questions – do let me know.