If one were to research various tools that could be used for implementing asset protection into their business, it’s highly unlikely that communication would come up as a result of their search. However, it’s my contention that it can be one of the most effective tools at our disposal when it comes to handling, primarily by preventing, customer disputes. It’s these customer disputes that escalate into more serious efforts by disgruntled customers/clients to punish businesses and business owners. By taking some time to think through our communication with our customers, we can be well on our way toward preventing disputes from reaching that boiling point. That’s what this article is all about.
In my last article for TRACES magazine, I laid out some com- ponents of the overall asset protection process in a way that most people are probably not used to seeing.
As a reminder, the process that I advocate for my clients is to go through a bit of a checklist for protecting against the potential negative repercussions that can arise when customer/client disputes are not handled correctly. The checklist is made up of the following areas of focus:
As referenced above, in this article, we’re going to take a look at communication and the important role that it plays in helping us to protect our assets.
In an excellent University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Fraud, Dispute, and the Consumer: Responding to Consumer Complaints, author Eric H. Steele wrote that, “The consumer who feels that he has been treated unfairly may be angry and outraged at the conduct of the seller, and may demand that action be tak- en against him, but his primary objective is to get help with his problem and to obtain what he thinks he is due…The customer is usually more interested in restitution than retribution.”
It’s important to understand what is meant by that statement. Am I saying that you need to carve out an inordinate amount of time to personally speak with every one of your customers about every little detail of every single transaction? Of course not! That would be impractical, unsustainable, unproductive, and unprofitable. However, am I saying that you need to have a plan in place to adequately and sufficiently address the disputes that come up in your interactions with your customers and/or clients? Absolutely!
The key here is to make sure that the plan that you put in place is done thoughtfully. This entails thinking through the process, or customer journey, that those interacting with your company will go through. By taking the necessary time to think through the process, it’s much easier to identify any areas where a question may arise and think through how to proactively address it before it ever arises. In this way, you have the ability to implement preventive as- set protection measures. By “preventive”, this simply means keeping an issue from ever becoming an issue. While this prevention of disputes cannot be done completely, it can be greatly enhanced by having the right process in place.
At the core of this process is communication. As mentioned earlier, I’m not implying that you must personally speak with each customer. What I am implicitly stating, however, is that your process needs to communicate to your customers how it works. The great news is that this can be done in many different ways. Let’s take a look at some of the methods for accomplishing this objective.
The first way to communicate is generally by doing so in writing. This can take the form of your initial copy in your marketing materials, it can be through your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of your website, it can be in your email correspondence sequence, and many others. In addition to, or perhaps in lieu of, your written communication, many people choose to include videos in their marketing and management efforts.
This is very effective whether the videos are of you as the business owner personally speaking to the customers either on camera or as a voiceover to a Keynote or PowerPoint screen cam video. Each person will find what works best for them but the overall objective is the same.
With regard to the email correspondence sequence mentioned above, this is something that I think is essential to many businesses and can keep customers from becoming overly enraged. It’s been my experience that customers are willing to overlook a lot of challenges as long as you explain to them what is happening. Simply providing updates can go a long way in ensuring that the customers don’t start spiraling with thoughts that they have been taken advantage of or swindled. You might be surprised at the tales that customers can tell themselves as to why they haven’t received their product or service, their return phone call, or the response to their email. By communicating with your customers, it lets them know that you have not forgotten about them, that you’re thinking about them, and that they are important to you.
The bottom line is that customers need to be heard, need to feel valued, and to feel appreciated. The best way that you can ensure that they feel this way is to communicate to them that you hear them, that you value them, and that you appreciate them. As the quote from the law review article listed earlier teaches us, most customers are not looking for retribution from you as a marketer, they want to be helped with their problems. That’s the purpose of all of our businesses and it’s something that, if properly handled, can not only allow us to be profitable but also protected. This, my friends, is how communication can serve as an asset protection tool for helping us to cover our assets.