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Stop Ghosting Your Customers

Why having no news to report is a worthy — and important — part of client communication.

Yes, we know is this not the ghosting Henry refers to, but it is tough to find a pic of someone NOT calling or emailing. Plus, the dog in the foreground looks like he is having none of this, which is how Henry feels about ghosting customers. Photo by Getty Images

Have you ever not gotten back to someone because you didn’t have anything to report? Better yet, has anyone ever left you hanging, and when they finally did get back to you they innocently claimed the delay was due them waiting on an update themselves? How did that feel? Frustrating? Maddening? When it’s your CI business on the line, these situations cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

This “ghosting” phenomenon drives me nuts. The most frustrating part can be the bewilderment of the ghoster when confronted with the issue. A rookie ghoster will typically draw a logical connection between whoever’s ghosting them, and impute a permission to continue the ghosting upstream. Why is this? Maybe some people don’t like to deliver bad news and would rather wait until good news is available. The rub is that good news may never be available; maybe there’s only bad news. Rookie ghosters presented with bad news may continue to ghost hoping in vain that they’ll be able to please their customer. That’s why we talk about three types of news at Livewire: Good News, Bad News, and No News.

More Advice from Henry Clifford: Reboot Your Referral Program

Good News
This one’s easy, and here’s an example: We find the magic shiny object allowing the somewhat reliable control system to display LaserDiscs in 4K. Huge! The client is happy and we all get our little hit of dopamine. Good news is easy to deliver because it’s what we all want. Not much coaching needed here.

Bad News
We’re an industry full of pleasers. We love to serve our clients and deliver what they ask for, no matter how crazy. Sometimes, however, we just can’t do it or other factors make saving the day impossible. It’s times like these that we’re supposed to hit the pause button, pick up the phone, and call the client. “We found black mold underneath your floor,” you say. Expletives follow. You’re now paying the price for the customer’s other headaches and stresses. Congratulations, messenger, you’ve been shot! This may be why it’s all too common when presented with bad news to simply decide that we’d rather delay our feedback vs. being candid. This can lead to inadvertently delivering the dreaded third type of news…

No News
I see this dynamic at play often among installers, salespeople, and clients. The installer is waiting on a call back from a manufacturer and doesn’t update the salesperson. The salesperson doesn’t have an update, so they don’t contact the client. So many times I’ve asked where things stand with a project only to hear, “I’m waiting to hear back from so and so before updating the client.” I’ll encourage them to make that their update. “You mean I should tell the client I’ve got nothing to tell them?” is a common reply I’ll often hear. “Yes!” I usually exclaim, “That’s exactly what I want you to do.” It takes a few months for this to sink in with rookie ghosters, but they soon get the hang of it. As a result, the rule at Livewire is always deliver Good News or Bad News, but never No News.

Are you ghosting your clients, employees, or managers? In the words of Bob Newhart: “Stop. It.”

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.

More Advice from Henry Clifford: Are You Answering Customer Questions?