When Email Is NOT the Answer

Obviously, I am big proponent of using email to reach out to your customers to stay top of mind or to fill up a suddenly open schedule. However, a recent customer service experience I had with a personal consultant illustrates that email is not always the right communication tool for all jobs.

Here’s the scenario: My family and I had an appointment with this person set for 6 p.m. one evening, but the consultant thought the meeting was scheduled for 5. These things happen. But, when we didn’t show up at 5, she sent an email at 5:30 saying, “Sorry I missed you,” and left the office. While I am known to check my email frequently, I did not in the half-hour leading up to the supposed appointment time, so when we arrived, we were more than surprised to find the office closed.

The consultant has my and my wife’s phone numbers, so she should have called to check and see if we were still coming for our meeting, rather than assuming we weren’t and sending a last-minute email to reschedule. This is especially true given that she was waiting on us before she closed the office for the evening, and as a result, had left us high and dry. We live a short distance from the meeting place, so we could have easily made it there earlier if we knew in a timely manner.

Yes, email is great for reaching people. Social media networks, too. While those tools can spread word quickly, there’s no guarantee that the person you’re trying to reach will see it in time. If you have a last minute change of plans that might impact a customer or client, you need to pick up the phone to ensure the other party is aware of the change. If you get a voicemail or answering machine, leave a message and at least give the client a few minutes to respond if possible. It’s common courtesy.

In such a time-sensitive nature, people should rely on real-time communications tools, like the time-tested telephone. Doing so in this case would have saved a lot of aggravation and turned a bad customer experience into a positive one.