How honest should you be?
For those of you who belong to the ProMarketers group on LinkedIn, here’s a link to the discussion.
For those of you who don’t, here’s a link to the blog post referenced.
Essentially, the message is that openly sharing your problems can help you build a closer relationship with the customer. I’d agree to that to a certain extent, but with some conditions:
• This is not a strategy to be used too often as it will come across as whining and your customers will begin to lose confidence in you. People like to follow confident leaders and they want to buy from confident companies.
• This strategy won’t work if you are continually sharing the same issues over and over again. A software company that is constantly telling its customers why the latest release is delayed should rethink their release process and the process for communicating dates. (Unless of course you are a certain large software company where it’s just expected that you will be late with your releases.)
• If you caused a problem, you need to share how you are going to fix it.
• Once you’ve apologized and shared the remedy move forward. Too much apologizing can get tedious. And, for customers that tend to be a little hotheaded, it continues to remind them that it was your fault.
• If the problem is severe, do not send the message electronically. Your customers deserve a call.
• Always use your best communicators to share the message. Those who need to get the last word in, or who feel the need to be right, need not apply for this.
• You might consider restraining your PR and marketing folks. I’ve seen many of these communications over the years that passed through the hands of marketing and PR. The resulting communication left you dizzy if you know what I mean.
• This is not the time for Execs to hide behind the frontlines unless your execs are some of your worst communicators. (Some are!)
Now, putting all SEC and SOX rules aside, I’d love to know how you have successfully shared bad news with your customers and come out the better for it.
All the best!