Talk to customers on their schedule, not yours

When my kids come home from school I always ask “how was your day?”
Any guesses as to the answer I invariably get?


“Anything special happen?”


Bonus points if you visualized a pre-teen eye-roll in there as well.

But it’s funny, they actually have plenty to say at other times.

While I was busy writing this newsletter, my son told me all about the “waterworks” in the school yard.  The waterworks are what he calls the elaborate set of water channels he has dug in the mud with his friends at school.   Then my daughter interrupted to educate me about the evolution of various Pokémon creatures (did you know that Charmander evolves into Charmeleon, which evolves into Charizard , which evolves into Mega-Charizard?  Well now you do.  You. are. welcome.).

“I’m busy, don’t bug me” I told them.

An hour later, I was ready to talk to them again, but they had better things to do – like play Pokémon and dig in the mud.

For some reason, they insist on communicating on their own schedule.  It’s most aggravating.  Why won’t they talk when I want them to?

Ever notice how your customers react this way when you try to talk to them?

When your customers try to talk to you, how often do you send them the message “I’m busy – don’t bug me” ?

When you  are ready to talk, how do they react to you?  Do you talk to them only when your end of quarter is looming?  Or when you have a new product initiative that you would like feedback on?  Or when you decide to start up a  Voice of Customer initiative and you ask for their time to provide feedback?  Remember that survey you had pinned your hopes on that no one filled out – except that one really grumpy guy?

When you are ready to talk to your customers, do you get the equivalent of  “Everything is fine. Nothing interesting to tell you about”?

Try this for a change.

Next time your customer reaches out to you with questions or wants to tell you about their problems, trying pausing and actually listening.  Write it down.  Share that information with your colleagues.

I know, I know.  You’re busy.  You’re in middle of launching your next marketing campaign, or working on the business case to present to your executive on that new project, or you are preparing for the alpha release of your product.   But here is the thing, your customers are busy too.  I hate to be the one to break it to you, but they are not waiting breathlessly by the phone, waiting for you to call them and ask them a bunch of questions.  They have their own big projects, campaigns, and presentations to prepare for their bosses just like you do.

Here is the bottom line:  Your company must have some way of being open and receptive to customers on their schedule, not yours.  It just might be your only chance to talk to them.

Any kid can tell you that.

Photographer: London Scout