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How to Lose a Potential Customer in One Email

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Last week, I featured a guest post of How to Lose a Loyal Customer in Three Easy Calls. This week, I'd like to post one quick way to lose a customer in a single e-mail.

Over the last month, my wife and I have been looking for places to rent on Craigslist (which lead me to this brilliant Craig's List scam). Even looking online, it's fairly time-consuming. The amount of properties available seems to be enormous. The economy is not only making it buyers' market, but it seems a renting one as well.

So I went through and checked of quite a few places that I liked. I e-mailed a few of them and they responded back by telling me to call a number and talking to a person. That's the part that just strikes me as odd. I'm living in Silicon Valley. You are advertising your product on the Internet. Why can't a time to see the place be set up on the Internet?

I'll admit that part of this is me being Lazy. Shooting an e-mail is quick and easy (I'm already on the Internet most of the time) - trying to sync up with someone on the phone is more difficult. I don't do much business on the phone because I finish the conversation and there's no record of it. Still, if you know your customer is on the Internet and using a tool that facilitates Internet communication, why risk losing the person? If you are trying to make a sale, take the path of least resistance. It's not rocket science.

Posted on February 19, 2009.

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14 Responses to “How to Lose a Potential Customer in One Email”

  1. Jeremy says:

    I hate that. What bothers me even more is when someone sends you an email basically asking you to call. What the hell? You took the time to write me an email, why couldn’t you at least spend another minute or two typing what you want to talk about or ask me?

    But I’m also lazy.

  2. Dan says:

    They may just want to get a feel for what kind of tenant you would be before they waste their time with you, and it’s easier to scope someone out on the phone than via internet.

    On the phone, they can hear how long of a pause until you answer questions, whether some questions made you nervous, etc.

    On e-mail, anyone who takes the time to write well can be the perfect tenant, haha.

  3. Eric says:

    You are right about losing a potential customer. Whenever this happens to me, it throws up some red flags. I wonder what kind of things they are going to try to pressure me into on the phone.

    This also applies to commercials. If I see something I might be interested in, I always look to see if there is a website under the phone number I can go to. If not, I don’t bother. I don’t want to call the number and have a sales person try to pressure me into buying something when all I really wanted was more information on their product.

  4. kosmo @ The Casual Observer says:

    On the flip side of this, some companies will love you if you handle things via email.

    We recently refi’d our mortgage. We handled nearly everything via email. We submitted the required documentation via email (PDFs work quite nicely with the document management systems that many companies use). We would have probably done the closing via email if that had been an option :)

    Our day care center loves the fact that we communicate with them via email. Then they have a paper trail if there are any questions later (was that a half teaspoon of medicine, or two teaspoons?) Also, we can send them information with forcing someone to grab the phone (diverting attention from the kids)

  5. Cos says:

    so true, so true

  6. Mary says:

    I agree 100%.

    What I hate even more are people who post an ad on craigslist, but then the only way to reach them is by phone. And odds are that you will not be able to reach them or that they don’t have an answering machine.

  7. Lazy,
    I think they’re sizing you up through your voice, and do a simple phone screen. I remember trying to do the same thing when I was in the process of unloading my car via Craigslist. I wanted to know who I was dealing with before I asked them over… I guess I’m more paranoid that way?

  8. anonymous says:

    There’s a *lot* of rental scams perpetrated through craigslist. Asking people to call is a barrier to scammers. Not a foolproof one, but it helps a bit.

    It may filter out some real customers too, of course. But if you’re an individual trying to rent out a room, you may not have the time to week through the email scams.

  9. NatalieMac says:

    If either one or both of you is a busy person, it can take dozens of emails back and forth to nail down an appointment time that works for both of you. The same conversation can take place in a 30-second phone call – so for a busy person, it definitely saves a lot of time and frustration to set up an appointment by phone.

    Also, I would never give someone an address or agree to meet them without having spoken to them in person. There’s too much shady stuff going on, especially on a free site like CL.

  10. Manshu says:

    I think this is just people’s way of proofing themselves from Craiglist scams. I’d surely do the same thing.

  11. Boomer says:

    I post our single family home rental listing on Craigslist. If someone is interested in seeing the house and contacts me via email, the next logical step is to set up a date/time to see the property.

    I agree with NatalieMac that it’s much more expeditious to negotiate an appointment time on the phone than via email. I do not consider this bad customer service nor do I use this method as a tenant screening tool. I just value my time too much.

    On the other hand, if a prospective tenant has questions about the property that aren’t covered in the listing, I’m more than happy to answer them via email.

  12. Lazy Man says:

    I guess I see it the other way… Catching someone on the phone requires both people available at the same time. With e-mail she can say what times she has available and I could pick on. I already said that I could make almost any time since I work for myself at home.

  13. So true. I often wondered the same as I’ve also had this problem – and even crossed some properties off my list because I didn’t want to make the phone call.

    By the way, I just found your blog and I think its great. Thanks for all of your great posts!

  14. cybergal5184 says:

    I agree 100%. I loathe making phone calls to strangers and hate receiving phone calls as well. I will go to someone else if you haven’t figured out this email thing by 2009!

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