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The other night, a couple of girlfriends and I got together to have an after-work walk, with drinks following afterwards to chat about work and life in general. One of them recently just left a business to take a job at a different company and was filling us in on the details of her new position. But then she paused. And provided a startling insight that many businesses often overlook… which is very shocking. At her previous employer, no one (still) has not bothered to check voice mails being left at her old extension, NOR on the business cell phone she had turned in. Messages coming into her former e-mail address were also still going unanswered, according to a former colleague still working at the company. Unbelievable. Given the fact this person was in a high-profile sales role, it’s not too hard to imagine that many of the inquiries coming in are potential customers looking to get a quote or even book business. What happened in that moment of inaction and lack of proactive thinking meant that the company has actually exposed a brand weakness: they are not taking care of their clients and sending a clear message: the leadership doesn’t care. All of which further underscores the inelegant handling many companies engineer around the departure of employees. Of course, some businesses “get it” and immediately redirect inbound inquiries to interim personnel or support staff to make sure that business continues on uninterrupted. But many don’t. In this same conversation, I found out another industry colleague had left their job at a separate company. There was, in this case, an auto-responder put on this person’s e-mail notifying people of the following: "I am not here." Given this is also a high-profile business and position, what on earth is that saying to potential customers if they send an e-mail and get this kind of reply? I was horrified. This would absolutely turn off any potential customers… I know I would send my business elsewhere if I got this kind of message in return to a booking inquiry! The reality is that truly effective HR departments will take steps to smooth over employee departures to make sure the company doesn’t lose any brand momentum and sales. They will:

  1. Determine an appropriate (and capable) interim person to direct callers to who can handle inquiries.
  2. If no one is specifically tapped to handle inbound inquiries, then a staff member should be appointed to routinely check voice mails and e-mails to let customers know there is a “live body” at the company who cares about their business.
  3. If the departing employee is leaving on good terms with the company, it helps to smooth over the transition if they can leave a friendly, helpful outbound message letting customers know how their request will be handled by the company. It preserves the employee’s brand during their time at the company while solidifying the company’s commitment to the customer by making sure they are serviced.
I’d love to hear them… from my own experience, this is a chronic problem not addressed at many businesses. What horror stories have you heard about companies shooting themselves in the proverbial foot during employee transitions? Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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