This is a short story, but true.
As in all good stories, names have been hidden to protect the innocent!
It all started when we were asked to provide Shredders, huge mincing machines that grind up commercial and domestic waste for a soon to be opened environmental and garbage disposal plant in central China.
There were really just 3 big players our client was interested in, Europe USA And Japan.
We began by sending identical emails to all prospective sellers. First to reply, next day, were the Japanese, not surprising as we share, pretty much, the same time zone.
And that was it.
3 days later we sent emails again, still no reply from US or Germany.
We called, thankfully the German operator spoke English, we were on our way. But, the man in charge was out, however we were assured by the person we spoke to he would get the info together and sent it to us within the next few days.
But no, few days came and went, no email. Did he mean post?
A call back to clarify, but hello hello, he was now away. Was his superior back? No sorry, but maybe I can help the young woman ventured. Same explanation, same promise, same result!
During this time we had also been placing calls to the US company.
Each time we were politely greeted with voice mail, "Thanks for calling VVVVV. Your call is important to us, please select the extension of the person you wish to talk to or hold for an operator," Or words to that effect.
Well, we didn't know the extension, so we held, nice music, and held, OK music, and held music, and hung up.
We tried this many many time, each time the same result, no matter what day or time of day, there was never any operator!
During this time the Japanese had;
Emailed us a photocopied package of material and images, in English
Couriered us a high resolution marketing pack, with glossy pictures and in detail specs and price ranges. In English
Had the local Chinese agent call to say he had a translated a copy of first email into Chinese for us and was sending to us by local courier.
Arranged a small delegation of 4 men, including their Asia Pac sales manger, to come to Beijing from Tokyo to visit us and buy us dinner.
Ok, it should be pointed out that these things run at around 1 mill US each, give or take a few bucks and SHREDDERS aren't he sort of merchandise that one sells via the local supermarket in 6 packs so there was a lot at stake
Not surprisingly, the contract went to the Japanese firm, who really won by default I guess.
Oh about a month and a half later we DID get an email with attachments from the German firm, but as far as I know, the operator in USA is still out to lunch, or wherever! . This was all prior to the Beijing Olympics so maybe the Germans though that business was good and no need to rush for China? The C word does funny things to people I have found over my years in working here.
Anyway, my question is I guess, who handles your incoming calls?
What is the image or first impression the client gets?
How good are you at following up, and if it is not you, what practice have you got in place so you know what is going down in business?