Successful business depends on communication.

No matter what business you are in without communication your business is destined to fail. Great communication leads to success. Lack of communication almost always leads to failure. After all, everyone knows that information is powerful. Rarely do the weak win. It’s the strong and powerful that usually end up winning. In business it’s all about winning. Winning can be viewed on many levels, such as a profitable year, making a great sale or just making sure a customer service issue is handled properly.

Unfortunately, good communication can be extremely difficult. Oftentimes we think we have communicated something but the message being communicated is not received for one reason or another. Worse yet, we assume that something has been communicated but it has fallen through the cracks. It’s these cracks, or in some cases gaping holes, that lead to customer disappointment and in severe cases failure.

Customers today are more demanding than ever. As a retailer who prides and preaches customer satisfaction and service the difference between success and failure is a fine line. Proper communication is critical in setting the customer’s expectations. In today’s troubled economy our suppliers have dramatically reduced their inventory level which in turn has resulted in longer lead times. This directly conflicts with our society which whenever possible demands instant gratification. Customers do not want to wait to receive their purchases. They want them immediately without excuses. They want them delivered as promised and correctly the first time.

With businesses everywhere reducing both inventory levels and employee staffing the opportunity to disappoint customers becomes greater. Unless the customer is made aware of the realities prior to pulling the trigger you are set up for failure. Additionally, because employees are expected to do more with less the level of communication becomes more important. Speed and accuracy are more critical than ever. All too often in our haste to move the sale along shortcuts often result in errors that end up delaying completion and a dissatisfied customer.

In order to succeed there is no substitute for great communication. Great communication leads to teamwork which is critical because often times in order to complete a successful customer transaction as many as a dozen people can be involved. How many times does the right hand have no idea what the left hand is doing? The land mines are just waiting when trying to complete even the simplest transactions.

For example, when we have a customer come in to select something as mundane as their daughter’s bedroom carpet the opportunities to disappoint seem endless. The customer must be greeted properly, qualified, shown product they like that is not only in their budget but available, within their time requirements. The area must be measured, the right color and style ordered with the supplier and then shipped to the proper destination. When the product arrives, it then needs to be unloaded, cut, matched with the proper cushion. Then delivered to its final destination on the date scheduled, at the time scheduled with the proper trims and installed – often after moving large bulky, fragile and expensive furniture. The dye lot must match the sample that was labeled and provided by the mill and the professional installation crew must deal with everything from removing and disposing the old pet stained carpet to concerns about that new carpet odor. Did I forget to mention informing the customer about proper maintenance? How about the warranty information?

It seems that the opportunity to fail to communicate is present during the entire transaction. Sure every business has systems in place to help assure that the customer has the best chance of a great experience. In fact, if a customer comes in looking for a specific product (kitchen cabinets, window treatments, commercial carpet, etc.) we have different individuals who are experts to assist them. However, without a seamless turnover by the original contact the whole transaction not only grinds to a halt but in many cases becomes just another lost opportunity.

Moral of this story is really simple. Don’t assume – take whatever time necessary to communicate both with the customer as well as everyone involved in the sale. Make sure that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed if you want to run a profitable successful business.

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