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“Follow the N’s Until You Get To The Golden C”

Is a lack of clarity hurting your business? How many customers have you lost because someone didn’t know how to be your customer?

The other night I stopped by a large hospital to visit my nephew (he’s fine.)

It was late in the evening so I was able to find a great parking spot and the lobby was practically empty so I’m already thinking, “great, this will be easy.”

I walked up to the information desk and told the smiling attendant who I was there to see and what room he was in. She punched the information into her computer, gave me my guest pass, looked up at me with that friendly expression people give you when they know you are there to visit sick loved-ones and in as friendly a voice as you can imagine, said to me:

“Follow the N’s until you get to the golden C”

I tried to keep my expression equally friendly as I replied: “What?”

She happily and patiently repeated herself “follow the N’s until you get to the golden C.” This time she also leaned forward as she smiled and pointed down the hallway.

As I wondered to myself if I was being sent on some sort of non-voluntary quest, I decided rather than ask for further clarification I would just start wandering down the hallway in the direction I was pointed and find someone else to help me.

When I saw a big yellow “B” on a sign above an elevator, I at least could then guess “the golden C” was also probably an elevator. As I walked, I started to notice an occasional “N” sign along the corridor as well. The friendly desk attendant was right! Follow the Ns until you get to the Golden C.

In this particular circumstance there really wasn’t a “risk” for the hospital not being clear. My nephew was in that hospital so it’s not like I was going to leave and go visit someone in a different hospital. And I already knew he was okay – that this wasn’t an emergency – so I was calm and not in a rush that could have turned my confusion at the directions I was given into outrage at the person providing them.

But what if this was a different situation where I was trying to decide to make a big-ticket purchase, or hire a lawyer or financial advisor. Or I was taking my car to a service center and could either have been a one-and-done customer or a loyal customer for years to come. In any of these situations I would have turned right away from someone who wasn’t communicating clearly and gone and found someone else to give my business.

Here are some things that you can do to make sure a lack of clarity isn’t hurting your business and costing you customers.

• Have someone who is not familiar with your processes go through the entire experience of being your customer. In fact, the less they know about your business the better. Ask them for feedback every step of the way and compare it to the experience you would want your ideal customer to have.

• Pay attention to the questions customers and potential customers are asking. If you are hearing the same questions over and over asking for clarification, there is a gap in your communication.

• Many businesses benefit from having a physical document – even if it’s electronic – that walks people through working with them. People might not read it ahead of time, but they usually remember receiving it and can return to it if they need it.

• Don’t expect your customers to actually read the document from the previous bullet point, let alone remember the steps. Have language built into each point of working with you that leads people to the next step. Make it easy to do business with you.

• Be brave enough to ask your customers what it is like to work with you. In addition to the level of customer service you are providing, look for questions that indicate confusion or a customer not understanding how to work with you.

In today’s world where people are short on time and long on options, using clear communication to make sure that you are easy to work with can go a long way in attracting and keeping customers.

Erin Marcus is an author, speaker and communications specialist helping organizations to “Conquer the Conversation,” and creating improvement in sales, customer service and team dynamics. To bring Erin to your event or business, visit, email or call 847-868-4464.

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