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"Explanations: a Good Idea?"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"ô

(c) 2002, A Few Good People, Inc.

When a customer has a problem, do you go out of your way to explain to them what happened? It isnít always a good idea, especially if itís complicated. Now IíM going to explain!

I recently went for a haircut and my favorite salon had just changed locations. They had a number of minor problems as you can imagine. They were being handled efficiently, one by one, when the telephone repairman arrived. He asked the receptionist what the problem was and she told him: they had 4 incoming lines (corresponding to 4 "outside line" buttons on the phone), and line 3 was really ringing on the button for line 4. He said, "Oh, thatís not a big deal" and then proceeded, Iím not kidding, to spend the next five minutes explaining why this was happening. "All of your outside lines come in on the main panel, and then I take those lines and connect them to the posts for each of your lines on the phone here. Each line comes in on different color wires; one is a solid color and the other is the same color combined with white, so youíve got your blue and blue/white, your orange and orange/whiteÖ like that. The posts are really little connectors and you just push the wired down on them. Anyway, all I have to do it go into the panel and find the wiresÖ"

Good grief! The receptionist doesnít care about all that malarkeyÖ she just wants her phone fixed! From the way he explained it, he could have fixed it and been out of there in the time he spent explaining it.

Iím guilty of this, too. Years ago I was working at a computer service bureau as a programmer. (A service bureau was a business that provided computer services to companies that had a need for them but were too small to have their own computer. Needless to say, now that computers are so inexpensive and relatively easy to use youíd be hard pressed to find one today!) The customer needed to get his invoices printed and there was a bug that caused every invoice to get the name and address from the previous invoice. I proceeded to explain about the program and reading the customer names from the tape and that there was a logic error and a buffer wasnít being clearedÖ he got very aggravated. He didnít care about any of thatÖ he just wanted to know when his invoices would be ready!

Donít do that to your customers! If they have a problem, tell them youíre sorry and that youíll fix it right awayÖ AND THEN FIX IT. Donít bore them with the details unless, of course, it is absolutely necessary. You run the risk of a) making them feel stupid because they donít/canít understand the complexities of your particular situation, b) irritating them by wasting their time, and c), telling them something that may shake their confidence in you.

I know itís tempting to explain, but use good judgment. Repeat after me:

"Iím sorry, Iíll fix it right away."

"Iím sorry, Iíll fix it right away."

"Iím sorryÖ "

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