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Silence is Anything but Golden (2)

August 1st, 2017


Silence, in a word, is not a bad thing. Many of us like silence. We like silence when we sleep or if we are deep in concentration while at work. Our mothers often told us “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” in other words, keep silent. The world can be a noisy place and silence can be peaceful. However, in some situations, silence can be frustrating, damaging, lead to misunderstandings, and cause major problems. In today’s tech world of instant action/reaction with social media, email, and smart phones, people have become accustomed to a certain wait time, or should I say lack there of. If we text someone, we expect a reply fairly quickly, but understand that our intended recipient may be in the car or away from their phone. When we call, I mean actually pick up the phone and make a phone call, we may have different expectations. When we call repeatedly, without a reply, we become angry, frustrated, and perhaps start assuming things about the possible reasons for the silence. Things then begin to take a turn for the worse when you feel undervalued, ignored, don’t care for the way you are being treated, and the silence is anything but golden.

Years ago, when I still had a full head of hair that was brown, not grey, I was volunteering my time with an organization called NACA (The National Association for Campus Activities). A friend, who was also a client, called me to ask a question about NACA. At the time, I was on another call but as soon as I finished I got right back to her. When I returned the call, she thanked me for the information but then scolded me. Her issue was that although I had returned her call immediately, I hadn’t returned a call to her students. Actual paying customers calling regarding a real job and they had been waiting for a return phone call for three days. She said point blank, I needed to get my priorities straight. She was right.

To this day, I haven’t forgotten that conversation or the advice I was given. It clearly shifted how I did my job as well as changed my priorities. Volunteering today is as important to me as it was back then, but it comes in second place to making sure that I take care of the needs of my clients. As a matter of fact, customer service, or as I call it client service, is a cornerstone of our business and our brand. If you are a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure that you have seen more than a few references to this particular topic. Sometimes, I am discussing an issue of particularly good or bad service. Other times, it is how a company responds to issues or challenges. This is about how people respond or don’t respond.

Let me begin by saying our landlord is not a bad guy. When we have had issues with a blown water heater or lights not functioning properly, he and his company are quick to respond. It is hard to tell this story without going into a lot of detail but I don’t want to bore you. Here is the basic plot, our building shares a parking lot with another building that is owned by a different company. Over the past few months, our building has added more tenants and parking has become a huge problem. Suddenly, part of the parking lot was relined and signs were going up indicating that those spaces belonged to the other building. Tenants in our building were not allowed to park there or they would be towed. Soon after that, they put fliers on all the cars indicating that the remaining space in the lot was an area of access and egress, and that we were not allowed to park there either. Basically, we have this large parking lot right outside our door that we aren’t allowed to park in. As you can imagine, our employees, neighbors, and visitors are beyond frustrated. Last week the tow trucks showed up and four cars were removed (thankfully none were ours). Since this all began, we have called and emailed our landlord for advice, direction, and help. We are trying to run a business and this is significantly impacting our day to day. We have spoken to people in his office and they have told us they have given him the messages, that he is working with legal counsel and will respond to us shortly. When the phone doesn’t ring, we know it’s him.

This problem is very frustrating and the silence has become quite deafening. I have called and emailed so often without a response that I’ve entered that “turn for the worse” zone in assuming he doesn’t care, he isn’t professional and as a business we need to decide about relocating our offices and warehouse. Our lease in this building is up in February. Honestly, moving for us is a giant pain. It disrupts our operation for months and is extremely expensive, but the parking situation and the lack of a response makes it challenging to stay. I am trying to remain hopeful that something can still be worked out.

Since writing the original text, we had a visit from a representative of our landlord who told us that our landlord’s father had passed away. Trust me, I understand not wanting to tell the world what is going on with you personally. To alleviate much of this problem, someone from his office should have said to us that he was dealing with a personal situation and he would be in touch shortly. A little information goes a long way.

For those of you that own businesses or if you simply deal with the public, a word to the wise, get back to people, update them, keep them in the loop, and make them feel valued. Nothing makes people more frustrated faster than the feeling of being ignored.

Posted in the category The World According To....