Learn to Communicate or Be Mistaken for a Robot

Storytime: A few days ago, I had a really frustrating interaction with the customer support team from a food delivery service company. I won’t get into ALL the details, but let’s just say a few boxes of food were sent to my apartment while I was on vacation, unbeknownst to me, and they ended up rotting in our new secure locker box system.

Yep, it was pretty gross. 

I ended up losing about $200 and all the food went to waste. It was a comedy of errors all around, with lots of things that went wrong. But there were two specific things that the delivery service company did that I believe caused the situation—a website glitch that prevented me from canceling and a courier error that put them in the locker instead of at the door of my apartment. 

So, naturally, I reached out to their customer care department to let them know what happened and request a refund. I got a very quick email response from an employee with an overview of how the delivery service works.

  • Communication mistake #1: Not addressing my complaints and explaining something to me that I already understood and did not ask for information about. 

Since that email didn’t address the two issues I had, I responded with further details (screenshots and all), specifically asking for them to be addressed. I received an email response from a different representative with a stock reply that they have a strict policy and cannot refund me. 

  • Communication mistake #2: No personalization to the message—they still didn’t address the two issues I brought to their attention AND it was obviously a stock response. 

Getting frustrated now, I wrote back a third time (I know this is the point I should pick up a phone and call, but hey, I’m a millennial). This time I wrote something—kindly—that it seemed like I was talking to an AI bot instead of a real person because my issues were not being specifically addressed and I was only receiving stock responses. I received a response from yet another agent offering to speak on the phone to resolve the issue… I responded with my phone number… and never heard anything from them again.

  • Communication mistake #3: False promise of resolving the issue over the phone, but not following through.

I’ll probably follow up again over the phone, but I’m frustrated about it now. I’m frustrated about my money and the wasted food, but I’m also frustrated that my concerns were not heard or validated. The company did not take responsibility for its errors and my legitimate concerns and frustrations were ignored and brushed under the rug. And I’m still not sure if it was a real person or an AI bot answering those emails. 

So, all this got me thinking: communication is important. We know this. I don’t need to write this whole article telling you that. 

But hear me out. Communication is really important. Like, I-will-never-be-their-customer-again kind of important. I have no desire to order from this company again because I don’t trust their ability to fix potential problems. 

And here’s the thing—it’s not about them not giving me a refund. If they had written a clear, straightforward, and personal email explaining their refund policy, I would have understood. They’re a business, I get it.

But because they repeatedly ignored my concerns, patronized me by explaining how it works, and then promised a phone call without following through—they’ve lost me as a customer. 

So what’s the point here? I believe communication and how you conduct yourself as a professional is JUST AS or sometimes MORE important than the skill, service, or product you are offering. In my context as a content writer, this means I need to prioritize communication with my clients to the same level as I prioritize writing. 

It doesn’t matter if I write a good article if they’re frustrated by my slow responses. 

It doesn’t matter if I came up with some catchy social media posts if I delivered them late. 

It doesn’t matter if I capture their unique tone in my writing if the tone of my email was rude. 

If you care about client satisfaction or retention, then the quality of your communication has to match the quality of your service. 

What does that look like in practice? It’s simple:

  • Always respond in a timely manner. It may vary by project or industry, but you need to define it and stick to it.
  • Always deliver on time. If you can’t, communicate in advance. 
  • Always be professional. This applies to the tone, language, structure, and accuracy of your writing. 
  • Always address what the customer or client is saying. Use direct, clear, and kind language, and don’t ignore the parts that are challenging or uncomfortable. 

Super simple, but some just don’t get it. 

Communication is key. But if you’re a business, entrepreneur, freelancer, or anyone else who offers services and products, it’s even more important. Client engagement, satisfaction, and retention depend on your ability to communicate well. 

But what are your thoughts? Did I miss any communication tips here? How would you have handled the food delivery service situation? 

*This article was originally posted on my personal LinkedIn on June 28, 2022

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