Mediator Tip: Provide Two Ways to Reach You

by James Florence


Problem resolution is much easier if you provide a company with easy ways to contact you.

A couple of weeks ago, a customer contacted us by email to report a complaint about a company. She explained that a Diamond Certified arborist did not follow industry standards, and because of their negligence, she was certain her trees would be lost. She was reasonably angry and intended to report the company to multiple agencies. She said we needed to contact her, so we did. I sent her two emails, one with our complaint form and a second to inform her that the company she was reporting was not Diamond Certified. She didn’t provide a telephone number. So, I waited…

The other day, I received another email from her. It said, “Can I expect any follow-up on this?” Below that was her original email. At that point, I wished she had also provided her telephone number. All I could do was send another email, which felt futile. I thought she might not know to check her spam folder for the emails that I had previously sent her.

I really wanted to help her in some way. I reflected on the probable outcome: she would feel ignored and we would look bad, despite making every effort to respond. Please take this as a cautionary tale about placing too much confidence in one medium. If you want someone to reach you, you should provide more than one way to do so—especially if you don’t hear from them the first time around.

I’m happy to report that as I was writing this tip, the phone rang. It was the customer! She’d received my third email. When we retraced our steps, everything became clear: she had initially filled out a contact request form on our website, but the return email she identified wasn’t one she typically uses, and that’s where I sent the first two emails. We discussed her situation in some detail. I told her that since the company is not Diamond Certified, we can’t get involved, but we did talk about her options. In the end, she seemed to have good clarity about how to move forward.

As a side note, it turns out we’re both horse owners, and we wrapped up with a brief conversation about our favorite subject. In the end, she said she would let me know how it all turned out. I wished her well and was glad to have made the connection after all.