Miscommunication: The Root of Dissatisfaction

After months of going back and forth on the matter of replacing the back door on our humble abode, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a replacement door and installation a month or two ago.

It’s been several months, actually, since I had discussions with the door seller. Finding a contractor willing to do the installation and fit us into their busy schedule was even more time consuming – and tedious. (Tip: Don’t start calling around in August or September and expect to get exterior work on the house done that season. It just isn’t going to happen.)

Finally, on December second, the installer arrived with the replacement door. Now, for the set-up: The only way to get the replacement door to the back of the house was through the house. I did not have a stairway built onto the deck in back, for security.

In the process of measuring multiple times to ensure that the replacement doors could be brought through the front door, the installers discovered that the doors they brought were the wrong size. Width-wise, they were fine. The doors were a tad height-challenged, however. Two-and-a-quarter inches.

Captain - Cool Hand Luke - Strother Martin
“What we got here is…failure to communicate.”

(Captain, “Cool Hand Luke”)

“Good thing we measured before taking the old door out”, the crew chief said. “Measure twice, cut once”, I muttered. “So…how do we proceed from here?”, I asked.

We had two options, neither of which meant we were going to get the door in yesterday. The installers could make up the difference on the top and bottom, which meant additional hardware, tools, and labor, as well as additional driving for them. The alternative was to return the door and order a door of the correct size, which would push the installation back to late December (or more likely, into next spring).

There are many ways this process could have been improved, but I’m going to focus on what I think is the most important one – improved communication.

First, as a homeowner, I know close to nothing about exterior doors. I understand their purpose, but I have never installed one. I went to a door-and-window seller and gave them the most basic of requirements – the door style, the material, and the rough dimensions of the opening. We got two out of three right – good but not good enough.

My big mistake, if I made one, was assuming the door seller would consult the installer, and vice versa, to ensure the correct size door was ordered. I also assumed that if my requirements weren’t specific enough or were altogether wrong, that either or both would contact me and say “We can’t do exactly what you want” or at least, “I want to be sure I understand you correctly before I proceed.”

I understand all too well that if you expect perfection every time, you will always be disappointed. I didn’t expect perfection in this instance, but I wanted “pretty damned good”. This door faces west, which means it takes the brunt of natural forces. Sun, wind, rain, sleet, etc., etc. – all work overtime on the back of the house. I think it’s reasonable to expect not to feel cold drafts, see rain puddling on the kitchen floor, or see a caravan of bugs on the kitchen ceiling.

I also think it’s reasonable to expect providers of goods (and services) to keep the lines of communication between them and their customers open and to work them often, ensuring completeness and clarity. We have so many means of communicating – good, old snail mail, plain old telephone service, fax, email, instant messaging, social media. There’s no reason for letting them go unused or underutilized

Conversation movie Gene Hackman

It’s not that difficult to keep tabs on your customers.
(“The Conversation”, 1974, Paramount)

Keeping the lines of communication open in this scenario would have resulted in a much, much happier customer. One – or maybe both – of the providers may find their reputation damaged as a result of incomplete or no communication. It’s not like I bought a slightly misshapen one-liter bottle of fabric softener for pocket change.

I bought a fairly expensive set of hardware, a product that is functional and decorative. It is designed to keep my family warm and dry, as well as safe and secure. I will see it several times a day, every day that I am home – ergo, it is an ongoing reminder of the customer experience I had.

Business owners, you have but one chance at making a good first impression on a customer or prospect. That first impression will stay with them long after it’s deserted your mind.

Sooner or later, word gets around – make sure it’s a good word. Take the time to communicate with your customer, and do it well.

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Posted in Accountability, Better communication, Customer experience, Uncategorized

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