Have You Ever Dealt With a”Ghost”?

By Jeff Bowman

Have you ever made a routine scheduled follow-up call to a company, left a message and never heard back?  Or sent an e-mail and got no response to it.  I’m not just talking about a client dodging you, or forgetting to respond, I’m talking about when the person has left the company (or has been escorted out) and you don’t find out about it for another several days until you call back and inquire with the receptionist if the client is away or not taking calls.

Quite often, you are made to feel like a complete dolt when informed that the person is no longer with the company, and hasn’t been for weeks or months.

I make outbound follow-up calls for one of our clients, and I can tell you that it happens quite often with medium-sized companies. Small companies don’t have this problem because often they are one or two-person operations. Larger corporations have procedures in place to immediately remove former employees from all directories and lists.

The medium-sized companies are the ones I normally experience this “ghost” phenomenon with.  Forgetting to change your voicemail message daily is one thing, forgetting to remove an ex-employee’s voice mailbox for several weeks is certainly another. It also holds true for e-mail accounts.  I worked with a company who had just “outsourced” a salesperson, and I was called in to work with the new salesperson to bring them up to speed.  The new salesperson was hired 3 weeks into the territory vacancy. When I sat down with the new person at the sales desk, I noticed the phone light was flashing.

I listened, and there were 14 messages, 2 of which were orders, now severely delayed in delivery. We then checked the computer, where there was more than 100 e-mail messages, luckily most were spam. The first hour of the day was spent returning messages and explaining that there was a new rep.  How can this happen in any organization? It happens because there is no procedure in place that sets the wheels of change in motion when someone leaves.

A simple step, overlooked can potentially lead to lost orders, broken client supplier-relationships, privacy vulnerability and ill feeling towards the company for not informing the clients of change. A procedure should include some or all of the following;

  • Identify the person responsible to make changes
  • Redirection of e-mail to an assistant
  • E-mail message back to the sender informing them that the address is no longer valid
  • Deletion of directory listing on the phone
  • Deletion of telephone extension/redirection to another person
  • Change of contact information on company website
  • Change of contact information to any associations or membership organizations where the employee was the first contact
  • Identify a person responsible for all incoming messages, faxes and mail for the outgoing employee, especially for a salesperson.

A simple form can be produced to ensure all of these changes take place.  There is nothing worse for an organization that unreturned calls, lost orders or being seen as ignoring your client. I bet many of you have had the experience of dealing with a “ghost”.

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Filed under B2B, Customer Service, Human Resources, Jeff Bowman, Sales

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