The way we communicate with each other impacts relationships. This applies to family members, friends and customers. A long term customer will build up a close business relationship with you, and will therefore expect some loyalty and respect. Sadly this is something my husband didn’t experience this week.
My husband has been taking specific classes in a healing/health centre for the last 15 years. The groups are very small and in that time he has got to know the owner very well; supported her through some very troubling times and always been a rock to her, and her family.
Last night he received a ’round robin’ email “Hi everyone”, stating that classes were closing in 3 weeks time and that priority would be given to people that pre-booked (and paid) for classes, only during the day, at a new centre 15 miles away. My husband was stunned. He had attended a class last week with the owner, who said nothing about the centre closing. He was upset that despite being a long term customer and supporter, he was treated in such an impersonal way. No explanation was given for this change; no acknowledgement of her customers and crucially, no recommendations of other service providers customers could attend if it was too inconvenient to attend in the evenings or to travel 15 miles.
We talked about this, and my husband decided to respond to the email, stating how disappointed he was at the email; tone; short cancellation period; lack of concern for existing clients. She said she’d written to everyone, but clearly he hadn’t received it. She didn’t say when it was sent, but there was no acknowledgement or apology for her major faux pas in communicating with a long serving client. My husband has requested the contact details of his favourite teacher and will work one to one with him. He has also been sent a copy of the original letter, although there was no apology for him not receiving it in the first place. Which speaks volumes.
I reflected on how I would communicate with my long term clients if I was relocating or changing service terms. I would certainly send letters more than 28 days before the studio was closing. Given UK postage services, sending mail on a Friday, second class, means you won’t receive it until the Tuesday or Wednesday afterwards. The letter (I’ve had a copy of the letter emailed to me) just focuses on her; the fact she’s got to move, say good bye to everyone. NOTHING ABOUT THE CUSTOMERS. In the end they are buying a service, not a sob story.
Like many people, I have had a number of challenges in my life, and have had to make decisions which impact others including customers. Had I been in this woman’s position I would have done the following:
- Acknowledge my customers
- Give plenty of notice to the customers so they could make alternative arrangements. Christmas would have been a good time to contact people, giving them 2 months, not 3 weeks.
- Collect alternative names of fellow professionals that run courses.
- Possibly give the names of her teachers, so clients could contact them directly.
- Ask people to keep in touch – “I’d love to know how you’re getting on”
But this was all about her; her pain; her life changing and the fact she still wanted clients to move to another studio, however inconvenient. As a customer, my husband wants nothing more to do with her. A caring professional she might be in name, but certainly not in practice.