How NOT to communicate with clients

Posted on October 20, 2011


how to communicateThere are literally hundreds of blog posts and other articles out there about best practices in marketing. I love reading and learning about these. A recent example reminded me what NOT to do.

We recently received a notice in our mailbox, telling us about some upcoming work being done to the water pipes on our street.
Score one for letting us know this was coming.

However, the notice read something like this:

October 6, 2011

The town of ****** will be replacing valves on the water pipes in your street. This work will be done between 7 am and 5:30 pm, weather premitting. We will have to shut off your water to complete this work.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at (999)999-9999 or (999)999-9999. Or email us at ****


We got this notice about 10 am on October 6. My first thought is “it would be nice to know exactly when they’re shutting off the water and for how long.” I immediately called the number listed and left a (pleasant) voicemail. I didn’t hear back from them until 10 days later. The response to me was, “oh, you’ll know when we’re about to shut off your water because you’ll see a big digger in front of your house.”

Mmmm, with job interviews and client meetings, I’d like to have some advance notice of water shut-off.

The end result was not at all bad. Yes, the big digger stopped in front of our house and made an awful racket. However, one of the workers came to our door and asked if it was okay for them to shut the water off for about 20 minutes. And that’s all the time the water was shut off. It was over before I knew it.

The worker also came back and showed my husband the condition of the water pipe leading into our house.

All in all, this was a non-event, but the town could have saved it’s residents a lot of grief by handling this better.

Better ways of communicating:

1. Be clear.

They weren’t going to do the work on October 6, they did the work two weeks later. They should have said, “sometime in the next few weeks, we’ll be working on your street. The work will be done weather permitting.”

Would they really have shut water off at 7 am, just when people are getting ready for school and work? I think not.

2. Be responsive.

It’s great to invite questions and provide multiple contact points, but this is irrelevant if they aren’t going to respond to inquiries.  Getting a generic response 10 days later is unacceptable.

If you are going to invite questions, which you should, make sure that you respond to them quickly.

What do you think?  Have you been in a situation that seemed more complicated that it was because of poor communications?

Photo is courtesy of pshanks’ Flickr Photostream under Creative Commons Licensing.