Silence is not golden to your customers

SilenceI stopped by Walgreens to pick up a prescription the other day. When I gave the pharmacy tech my name, she went to the bin marked M, flipped through the prescription box and came up empty. She didn’t say a word but just walked into the back of the pharmacy. A minute later, she came back out and then disappeared into another nook. Again, no communication.

While she was actively trying to fulfill my order, here’s what was going on in my head:

  • I wonder if there was a problem with the insurance?
  • Was this the right Walgreens or did I send it to the other one in my neighborhood?
  • Maybe they didn’t have time to fill it yet since I just submitted it a couple of hours ago
  • Maybe they didn’t have it in stock and are waiting to get some from another Walgreens

All of those thoughts ran through my head in the few minutes it took her to find my prescription and bring it back to the counter. This was just a routine refill. I was in no danger if I had to wait a couple of days. But still, I had all of those momentary thoughts and worries.

I’m sure for the pharmacy tech; it was just a routine “I can’t find it but the computer says that we filled it, so it’s around here somewhere” moment. But that’s not how I experienced it.

No matter what you sell or who you sell it to, there are moments in the process that are routine to you. But that doesn’t mean they’re routine to your customer. You might be waiting for some internal paperwork. Or the order could be in process and already on its way to the customer’s office. For you, it’s business as usual. Everything is on track. You’re not worried because you understand the entire workflow and know that everything is exactly where it should be. But your client doesn’t have that same insight.

All your customer hears is the silence. And in the silence, worry often appears.

We are often blind to those silent spots in our own processes. We think we’re hard at work, serving our clients, and instead, we’re accidentally making them anxious.

The pharmacy tech could have prevented all of my random thoughts and worries by recognizing that silent spot and over communicating with me. Immediately after realizing my prescription was not in the bin, she could have let me know that they had filled it and she just needed to find it.

No matter what product or service you sell, there are some common moments that might be ripe for creating worry for your clients.

Immediately after your discovery meeting: In many businesses we invest a significant amount of time on the front end of the engagement, learning as much as we can about our client’s challenges. And then we go back and have to assimilate all of that insight to diagnose the problem and decide on a solution. We’re deeply engaged on our end, but that kind of thinking takes time.

Inter-departmental handoffs: If there are different departments within your business that all play a role in a client’s project, there’s usually a slight lull as the new department gets up to speed.

When outside vendors are involved: Once you’ve relinquished the work to your partner, you’re comfortable waiting for them to complete their work. But that’s because you know them and have confidence in them.

Walk through your entire process and note where moments of comfortable silence for you have the potential of being an uncomfortable worry for your customers. Then, build additional communication into those moments to give your clients comfort and reassurance in those necessary bits of silence.