I recently hired a lawn care company to remove a few bushes and a tree trunk and build drainage in my back yard. The contractor is a friend, a great guy whom I have know for a couple of years and he ended up doing a great job at a reasonable price. However, during the process I felt “under-communicated”. Maybe it was me not nailing down expectations. I would not hear from him for weeks and started removing bushes myself, after which he would turn up unannounced to clear the area.
Later, I saw some pipes and yellow marks on my lawn which I first didn’t connect to the project and was wondering if UFOs did exist after all. A couple of weeks later, I noticed a couple of green grilles in my lawn and then the sow was laid. Overall, it turned out great, but I felt out of control and uncertain during the process whether it was going to happen or maybe I had ticked my friend off in some ways and he lost interest. A great job with poor communication.
Another example. I subscribed to a podcast editing service. I paid for a trial episode and received confirmation announcing that someone would reach out with next steps. After 10 days I followed up with the owner of the business and it turned out he had been waiting for me to send materials. It worked out, but I only stuck around as his price was competitive. Again, a great guy with a pleasant and service-oriented personality, but poor communication. I bet he is leaving money on the table because of that.
However, I still wasn’t connecting the dots, until I set down with a coaching client to work through HIS communications issues. He is running a residential construction company and we were discussing how important communications were for his clients too and how even major customer-service mistakes could be overcome with good communications.
Then it dawned on me why a client of mine running the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is so successful and dominate their market. They defined their niche to be “The Best Communicating Roofing Company, Developing Life-Long Relationships”. They are super-focused on keeping their customers in the loop, who are rewarding them with paying premium prices, having them work all their properties and referring them other clients all the time.
So why over-communicate?
It has been my experience that what clients want most is to be in the know of what is happening on their projects and they can be quite flexible with changes in scope and timing as long as they are not caught blindsided. We all are working on several pieces of our life puzzles and want to coordinate them so that things happen in a predictable fashion. Firefighting is disruptive, expensive, frustrating and demoralizing and we should try to avoid it as much as possible. Good communications (and subsequent coordination) are the keys to that lock.
But communication matters well beyond its value of informing people of progress and expectations. It is about owning the problem and reaffirming our commitment to solving it to our clients, business partners and employees that we remain invested in their projects and would be delivering the results on time and on budget.
Communicating means that we have taken charge of the outcome and would not be covering ourselves with excuses. When we “under-communicate” we do it because our commitment is wavering or we are slipping with our timetable but are afraid of delivering the bad news, hoping we can make up for lost time. Its best to own up and communicate any such delays, so that we allow our counterparts to adjust and manage expectations at their end.
The worst thing we can do is make our clients look bad with THEIR people.
Finally, if all is going well, we should still be over-communicating, as by not doing so, we are missing a major opportunity for keeping our customers happy and satisfied. My roofing client believes that communication is the single biggest reason their customers keep coming back and referring them.
Roofing is a commodity but good communication can be a distinct competitive advantage.