No response is not a response
Monday, December 03, 2018
Have you ever had the experience of trying to get the attention of a store clerk or waiter, only to have them go about whatever they were doing and act like you weren’t there? How did that make you feel?
Were you annoyed, angry, exasperated? I’m guessing the one thing you weren’t feeling was satisfied that they had properly responded to your attempt to communicate with them.
The point of my example is that most people in a face-to-face situation would consider being ignored or not getting or giving a response as inappropriate and rude. Yet, it is becoming quite common in business communications.
Like the inattentive store clerk or waiter, clients and customers expect you will get the message that they are too busy or not interested when they do not respond to or follow up on queries or requests for information.
I understand that everyone is busy and that everyone is inundated with more messages, requests and solicitations than they can possibly manage, much less have time to reply to. However, it is one thing to ignore an unsolicited “like” or "friend" request, sales pitch, or business proposition, and quite another to not acknowledge a response to a query or close the loop on a correspondence that you initiated.
We are seeing this kind of behavior a lot lately in my firm when, for instance, assisting firms with their recruitment efforts. If we are soliciting a prospect and they are not interested, they simply choose to ignore us. If someone approaches us for services and we answer their questions and they decide they are not interested, they don’t let us know that. They simply cease all further communication.
If we send them candidates that they are not interested in or on the fence about, it’s the same thing, no response (or a very delayed response), by which we are to infer they mean "no, thanks." Candidates will start a job search process, send resumes and portfolios, and then if they lose interest, without notice they stop responding to information they’ve requested about position openings.
Designers I know are having similar experiences with clients and prospective clients who, rather than make a decision, just drop out of sight. I suspect the same thing is happening with vendors and suppliers as well, with both inquiries and responses.
Not only is this a poor and impolite form of communication, but it is poor business practice as well. It wastes time for both parties, as the initiator or respondent needs to keep following up repeatedly with phone calls, voice messages, emails, texts, and the like to ensure the message didn’t fall through the cracks or get trapped in a spam filter, and the recipient has even more unwanted messages to wade through.
Worse, it also implies that the recipient does not respect the other person enough to give them the courtesy of a response. Wouldn't it just be more efficient and polite to say "no thank you"?
People may have their reasons for not replying. Perhaps they think they have to provide a long explanation to defend their decision and don’t have the time or aren’t comfortable doing so.
Maybe they’re worried the other party will want to try to convince them to change their mind and take up more of their time. They’ve probably gotten the information they wanted and as far as they are concerned the matter is settled.
Whatever the reason, it makes me wonder whether these folks really understand the potential consequences of their indifference. Businesses are based on relationships. If they pull the rug out from under a relationship, what type of reception are they likely to get if they want to do business again in the future? And what kind of reputation will their firm have in the community?
The irony in all this is that the same technology that is keeping people "too busy" to reply makes it super easy to provide a polite response in a matter of seconds and avoid all the unnecessary bad feelings and nonresponse looping. Isn’t it worth it to your business and your reputation to give clients and associates at least the same amount of attention that you’d give to someone’s social media post?
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