What’s the business cost of your assumptions?

throwawaymoneyA little background. . .

This weekend, I sent an email asking what the refund policy was for a program I recently joined and am debating about remaining in.  Nowhere did I ask for a refund – in fact the whole email consisted of greeting, one sentence and closing.  

On Monday morning I received an email “thank you, your refund has been processed”.

Imagine my surprise.  My bewildered response gently pointed out that I had asked for the refund policy, not for the refund.

She then responded, no greeting, no closing – very tersely in fact – that she would recharge me and I could “cancel anytime”.

The assistant made 3 mistakes here:

  1. She failed to thoroughly read a one sentence email
  2. Her failure to pay attention to the details resulted in her assuming the client (me) wanted a refund which she immediately processed and cost her employer revenue and
  3. Her follow-up email was distinctly less friendly than previous communications (remember, it’s email, we don’t know your “tone”) which makes me go “hmmm”.

About 90 minutes later (before I responded), I received another email.  This one changing the refund policy from “cancel anytime” to “you must commit to the end” and “please let me know what you decide”.

This tells me that she misspoke when sharing the refund policy.

So in addition to the 3 previous mistakes, she then gave me the wrong refund policy.     

And while you may reasonably think the opposite, let me be clear in saying that this is a business I highly respect.

Making It Real: My Request To You

If a business which I know to have great systems in place could make the mistakes described above, imagine what happens in a business without strong systems.

One of the best, and worst, things for our business is that we’re human.  As humans, we’re unpredictable, we multitask and we say things without thinking/checking.

All human traits.  All potentially disastrous for your business.

Since we’re not going to stop being human any time soon and the positive far outweigh the negative there (in my opinion), here are some recommendations for managing in your business:

  • Whether internal to your business or with clients, make your business a “no assumptions” zone.  If something’s unclear or you’re unsure, ask.
  • Before sharing a policy, double check.  It’s worth the extra 60 seconds to avoid miscommunicating to a client.
  • Ensure your team understands it’s quicker (and less expensive for you, the business owner) to confirm than to clean-up.  Just imagine the credibility and revenue lost if I shared the company name here.  Not to mention the assistant and I are now in our 5th conversation – frustrating all around.

Creating systems is necessary for a successful business – just be sure your team’s following them.