Be careful. You might be advertising an availability that you aren’t delivering upon, because public assumptions are changing.
Drive By Distraction
Dinner is Served
I was getting ready to roll out of Tuscaloosa after my Tuesday afternoon presentation at the University of Alabama when I realized that I was going to be getting back long after dinner. I decided to stop at Hardee’s and pick up a low-carb (bunless) cheeseburger on the way out of town.
As I pulled toward the drive-through lane to order, I saw a pickup truck parked next to the speaker, and a guy wearing a headset walking away. He saw me, jumped back in the truck, and pulled forward.
When I pulled into the spot, I realized what was up. I couldn’t hear the woman in the kitchen at all, her audio was cutting in and out, and was hopelessly muffled. The man re-appeared, and told me that she could hear me just fine, but that I might want to pull around to the window and order directly there. I ended up pulling into a regular spot and walking in, because I wanted to make sure that my burger had no ketchup and no tomato.
Having just been assured that I could be heard just fine, I walked into the restaurant anyway.
Synchronous and Asynchronous
You hear about this even more when communications is applied to business, leadership and management. It’s not enough to simply tell the workforce that there is an expectation or change in procedure. You want to build in a feedback that ensures a common understanding. It might be a face-to-face meeting where the employee communicates a non-verbal understanding. When done across an enterprise, it may involve a document the employee signs. If you’re to be given access to certain computer systems with sensitive client or customer information, you often have to complete an online course which lays out the expectations. The management of those expectations is so well-baked into the system, there’s no reasonable way to be in a position to interact without knowing the rules.
Simply put, Asynchronous communications are the ones where you shout into the wind, and hope they remember to exclude the tomato and ketchup. Synchronous communications are those where you go out of your way to enter the building to make your order. And you do it because of a strong desire for reassuring feedback. We all do it, even though we never use the term “Synchronous Communication.”
On the way out, I ran into the tech who’d been working on the speaker system. He apologized for the confusion, and I had a thought.
“No problem. Hey… why don’t you pull the truck into the drive-through lane backwards, and block the speaker with the lights facing the oncoming cars? That way, those pulling up will see that something is wrong with the system.”
He thanked me, and did exactly that. Why bother, though? Because one of the best things you can do to have happy customers is manage expectations. When there’s a gap between what the customer thought they would get and what they perceive they get, what you get is dissatisfaction. The lights are shining in the outdoor menu, so I can reasonably assume I can make an order at the microphone. Unless I get a signal (like a truck) that tells me otherwise.
Now, think about this for a second.
Remember when every fast-food restaurant that had a drive-through lane had a big sign out front advertising that? You don’t see them as often anymore, because it’s just assumed that there is drive-through convenience.
Just as you assume that you’ll be able to hear your order spoken back to you, you assume there will be a drive-through, unless told otherwise.
So, if you have an online presence for your business or organization, are you meeting the assumptions of your customers?
Lights Are On, No One Is Home
Specifically, if you have a social media presence, are you communicating specifically about how they are being used, to manage expectations?
The great thing about Twitter and Facebook and Foursquare is that they are tools, and can be used in many ways. Any of them can be used in an Asynchronous manner, and that’s okay. Well, it’s okay up until the day that general public assumption shifts. Much in the same way that we assume there will be a drive-through, and we assume that your customer support line will be toll-free, we will one day assume that your social media channel can and will be used for customer service.
I can’t tell you when that day will arrive for your industry, but it will. And you need to be ready for it, because the unspoken assumption can be the biggest source of your failure to meet your customer’s expectations.
Until then, why risk mistaken expectations? If you have accounts that are not being used for customer service, then park the truck in front of the speaker, and declare them so. “This channel is not monitored 24/7.” Your customers will thank you for directing them to where they can get the fastest and best service, because you respected them enough to not waste their time.