Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

My roses have wilted, my violets are dead. Demons run circles round and round in my head. In my case, demons don’t sport pointy horns. They don’t hold pitchforks. No, they are businesses that simply won’t provide a way to talk to a real, live, person.

We are all frustrated by this, but it increases every day. Why you might ask? It’s about money. It costs money to pay real people to chat with other real people. Computer automated systems, while often expensive initially, save millions of dollars for all types of businesses over time. So, we are told. It’s also about misunderstanding the difference between simply providing information and effectively communicating.

You see, we are told that we must address our problems, concerns or questions through endless phone menu choices or more importantly, online. This is probably true in many ways, but it’s likely negatively impacting business profits in the long run. When it doesn’t work, or individuals are expected to perform in an unreasonable way, it creates damaging negative perspectives that all the marketing in the world can’t defend against. That’s because it’s clear that the choice has been made to sacrifice effective communication. Simply providing information is seen as being enough. But is it?

I don’t mean to knock businesses using this practice. For many, this is a quick way to get business done. But when it doesn’t result in quick, effective results, it more likely results in downright contempt for the business or organization forcing consumers to interface in this manner. Why? Because, there isn’t any relationship being acknowledged or built upon.

I’ve been caught in this special kind of torture a lot recently. Minutes go by, hours go by, and I’m still circling, eagerly choosing from menu items that may actually lead to success. But, circles have no end. Circles placed together create spirals. And, spirals are simply not effective in communication. Instead of forcing your customers or colleagues into unworkable death spirals, consider wheels. Wheels are circles as well. However, they make progress. They take you somewhere.

One of the best ways to establish if your business or organization is placing customers, or colleagues, into a death spiral, is to contact your customer support, customer service, IT and/or other related entities yourself. Choose a specific issue or question and see how easy it is to get it resolved. If your business has a heavy online presence, and people are being directed to your online platform to solve their problems, even when their problem is the fact that they can’t use your online platform, or there is a problem with your online platform, then it is most definitely your problem as well. Not only are you alienating your customers and prospects, but you appear foolish.

Try going to your business or organization website. Look for information, ways to receive help, particularly “Contact” information. It is easily accessible? Does it require effort on the part of those trying to reach you? Does it make sense? Is it effective in terms of communicating with the intended audiences? Can anyone actually reach a live person? Does it spiral leading nowhere?

There are many businesses that do an excellent job of working with the public. They leave callers and/or online users feeling special. Issues or questions are resolved in a timely manner. It is always made clear that their purpose is to serve. It’s really about the basics.

Remember, effective communication requires more than an exchange of information. When done right, communication fosters understanding, strengthens relationships, improves teamwork and builds trust. Stop the spiral. Aren’t your customers and colleagues worth it?

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