Chocolate Pillow | The golden rules of enquiry handling
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The golden rules of enquiry handling

12 Sep The golden rules of enquiry handling

I have had cause recently to contact several companies over a variety of things, and the responses I received nearly rendered me speechless.  This was not because they had provided an exceptional response, but because they had broken some of the fundamental rules of enquiry handling.

Whilst I am fully empathetic to a business being busy, there are several things that happen, but are inexcusable; oddly enough I have somehow been like a magnet to these issues which all blatantly disregard my own rules that I set not only for myself, but also for my staff, regarding dealing with any enquiry from a customer or prospective customer – and so I lay down the law to these people, and to everyone else on why I will never, ever do business with these people, or any business that responds in this way:

  1. GET MY NAME CORRECT – This is not a big ask, but my name is fairly easy – Shiells-Jones.  It is 4 syllables (go ahead, be pedantic and tell me its actually 3 or 5!) that are pronounced SH-EELS-JOW-NS.  It really is not difficult.  Calling me Mr Jones is not acceptable, I got married and wish for you to acknowledge my full married name.  Call me Matt if you cannot manage the basics of the surname, but please, for the love of humanity, do not get it blatantly wrong.  I have even had people respond to my email, which has my full name with correct spelling, with an incorrect spelling of my surname, or even again just calling me Mr Jones.  Frankly I find it insulting and ignorant, it makes me feel like if you cannot be bothered to get my name right, how can I be confident you will deal with my enquiry correctly?
  2. READ THE EMAIL – I have had responses that blatantly ignore my request or try to deflect a question.  If I want to know how much something is, I do not need a full sales pitch in an email, that tells me to contact you for a ‘consultation’ (which translates as a telephone sales pitch), after I have already read all the information on your website, and in your email, and now you want to treat me to a regurgitation of the information I have already read twice (albeit with some variations, just to spice things up a bit and make it look totally different); except this time I get a bubbly voice boring me for half an hour before revealing how I can take out full finance options (as soon as that is mentioned I know the price will probably involve a re-mortgage of the house, if I actually owned a house to mortgage in the first place!).  Finally I may get the price and information emailed out to me so I can then call back if I have any queries.  believe me, this sort of sequence happens far too often.  People out there who do this (you know exactly who you are) – STOP IT.  It not only annoys the hell out of me, but I have now lost all interest in your company and will immediately delete that price email because I know it will involve far too many zero’s or decimal points that may be in too wrong a place for my bank account to cope!  Not only that – I emailed you asking for prices, yet it took a further email, and a phone call, wasting my time and yours, just to eventually send me the information I requested three days, one phone call and one email ago
  3. DO NOT PURSUE ME LIKE A ZOMBIE CHASING FLESH – If I have not responded, there generally is a reason.  I am usually too polite to divulge this reason as I do not like people to take it personally and I can be very harsh!  But please, when I contact you, do not add me to every marketing list that you have (without me actually agreeing to it… tut tut tut…slap on the wrists to you all and a permanent block on your email domain via my web server!), and do not send me emails every week on an obviously scheduled basis.  I have had emails at 12:30 every Monday for several weeks by one company in the past.  After 6 weeks I relented….and blocked them!  Do not ask me whether I received your previous 500 emails – generally, unless they bounce back as undelivered, you can be fairly confident the email was received – whether I choose to pay attention to it or not is an entirely different matter!  Generally,and I probably speak for millions of people here, if I am interested, I will contact you – you do not need to remind me that I ask for information as though I totally forgot about that item that I was looking to buy or that course I wanted to do; the basic human memory surely is capable of remembering the enquiry I made.  Emailing me continuously is not suddenly going to make me have an irresistible urge to buy from you!
  4. DO NOT COPY-PASTE A RESPONSE – You may be happy to receive my query and provide all the information about my request etc, but if you have not actually bothered to sit and type a response to me and just copied something from a draft email, then you have no care for me and no interest in me – as far as I see it, if you cannot give me two minutes to type an email, why should I give you 10 seconds to even bother with you?  Take a recent example where I enquired about courses with a well-known hospitality school.  The first response received was a copy-pasted standard email.  How did I know this you cry… it is simple – the format is blatantly pre-set and the text is not personal in any way.  I am told ‘You recently requested information on….’ (well, yes, that is why I emailed, so why repeat to me what I already know!?) and when asked for my best contact time and phone number, these bits of the request are bold and underlined as though I am unable to understand this instruction without it being screamed at me – would you scream this at someone face to face?  Well you just did by email and to me there is no difference – do you speak to clients face to face with just a stock set of standard paragraphs that you regurgitate, or do you actually engage in conversation?  To me, copy-pasted responses are obvious and blatant; to some they are not so easy to spot, but I hate them – with a passion!  My staff NEVER use a copy paste response.  They may use a copy paste section of information (for example information about an offer), but they always personalise the email to the guest and are recommended to re-write the information according to the guests request.  You should converse by email in the same manner you would converse face to face!
  5. DO NOT GET DESPERATE AND KEEP CHANGING YOUR PERSON-STRUCTURE – Another pet hate – the clingy desperate email that practically begs me for custom – if you are going to drastically halve the rate now I say I am not interested, then surely you were ripping me off in the first place to some extent – the idea should be that you find out what I can afford, or what my budget is and then negotiate – do not suddenly tell me you can do it half price when I am practically out of the door.  By the time I get to ‘not interested’ being emailed to you, I have decided not to use your business – winning me back makes me think you are desperate which is not a good thing because I can then get you to a quarter of the price if I wanted!  You lose revenue and I end up feeling like you are desperate for trade – and if you are desperate for trade, then what does that say about your business.  Also do not say ‘please contact us if I can do anything for you’ – am I contacting you, or the business? – the very structure of this sentence going from third to first person makes no sense and is not even grammatically correct English (hypocrisy I hear you cry based on my writing style but sod it…everyone can be a hypocrite at times!) Professionalism please when writing to me!

Okay, my rant is over now – I have a few other things that wind me up, but my rage is vented for another day!  Please for the love of god, treat me as a person, speak to me as a person, and write to me naturally – I much appreciate it and it is so much nicer to deal with a person as opposed to a robotic email response!  Follow my rules and I will do business with you, break them and I will just get annoyed with you and ignore you!

Any suggestion on further rules are welcome – it could practically make another book to follow on from my first one – feel free to buy it, and yes, that was a shameless promotion of my own book but I own this blog and no-one else can edit this post 🙂

Until my next rant readers – go forth and conquer the copy-paste demons!

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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