Case Studies: Some lessons in communications cut across all industries. Periodically, I’ll take a look at best practices in communications that may not stem from the humanities, but definitely can be applied to the history profession.
Being taken Care/of
Good communications practices play an important role in defusing tough situations, especially those in which a person or organization may not be able to meet expectations. Care/of, a dietary supplement provider, recently used three key tactics to get through a rough patch.
Care/of is a growing company that provides mail-order dietary supplements, including vitamin packs, protein powders, and “quick sticks.” (Think: instant water flavoring packets with a boost.) The company is committed to transparency in the science behind its products as well as its manufacturing supply chain. Added bonus, they use sustainable ingredients and compostable packaging.
Not too long ago, they changed distributors and it got messy. In a lot of instances this could have resulted in a significant drop in customers, but Care/of took some important steps to help minimize the impact and keep customers happy.
What They Did.
Advance Warning. In advance of the switch to the new distributor, Care/of contacted its customers to alert them that a change was imminent. In order to better meet the needs of its customers, it was switching to a new distributor. And while every effort was being made to make the change seamless, there could be some delayed orders. They explained the process they were putting in place to try to minimize the impact. Customers weren’t taken by surprise when their orders were delayed or when they received random notices about orders they hadn’t placed or had placed months earlier. Everyone knew that changes were in the works and the company was doing its best to navigate them. Advanced warning helped instill patience in the customer base while Care/of got through the transition.
Timely Response. When trouble continued beyond the first couple of orders, Care/of representatives handled inquiries (and complaints) with impressive responsiveness. Customers received responses to their questions within 24 hours and often the same representative walked them through the entire troubleshooting process. People felt like their needs were being met and they weren’t being passed around from one company rep to another.
Proactive Troubleshooting. Care/of representatives were empowered to solve problems and make amends with customers whose orders were incorrect or delayed. Care/of offered refunds, fixed order mistakes quickly, and dropped in little gifts to demonstrate its commitment to its customers. Most problems could be solved without the need to “check with my boss.” Timely problem-solving can alleviate a lot of frustration.
There will be times when historians or history organizations will not be able to meet the expectations of their ‘customers.’ From conference attendees to book editors to museum guests, there will be times when you may miss the mark. Communications can help minimize the damage.
Advance warning. If you start to feel like you’re not going to meet expectations, let people know right away. Can’t be on that conference panel? That draft is a mess? The museum exhibit has to go dark for maintenance? Let people know, whether that’s through direct outreach (email or phone calls) or to reach a broader audience, through your website and social media channels. People relying on you are likely to be more understanding of your situation if they’re not blindsided at the last minute.
Timely Response. No one likes to be kept waiting, especially if needs aren’t being met as expected. Respond quickly to any questions people have and stay in regular contact while the situation is being resolved.
Proactive Troubleshooting. If you’re going to come up short in meeting expectations, be armed with a Plan B to minimize the impact. Recommend someone else to take your place on the panel, explain to your editor the problems with your draft that you want to polish up, suggest a different exhibit at your museum that may be of interest to guests. Even if your Plan B doesn’t work out, it shows you care enough to seek out solutions.
It’s never good to come up short on meeting expectations, but a few smart communications tactics can help minimize the damage and show you are committed to the people who are relying on you.
Those are lessons from a vitamin company.