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We’ve hit the extra-busy and challenging holiday/budgeting/year-end season. At once, customers are juggling vacation schedules while trying to wrap up ’09 budget planning and meet their end-of-year goals.

Where does being featured in a customer story fall on the customer’s to-do list? Way down there.

Meanwhile, companies initiating success stories on their happiest customers are trying to meet their own objectives such as hitting ’08 promises to deliver a certain number of stories or to have them ready for trade shows early in the New Year.

You can still pursue customer stories with happy customers right now, but it just requires more sensitivity and patience.

Here are five ways you can annoy customers participating in success stories, and the antidotes:

Pitfall: Not respecting customers’ other priorities.

Solution: When beginning a customer story, and seeing it through to approval, be sure to ask customers if they’ll be out or tied up during the process. They’ll appreciate that you asked and you can plan your project and follow-ups around that.

Pitfall: Failing to remember holiday schedules.

Solution: Write down the dates that customers will be out and don’t contact them during that timeframe.

Pitfall: Expecting the same turnaround time you normally would.

Solution: Whatever amount of time it usually takes to finish a case study or success story, double it. It might not require that much, but it’s better to be prepared.

Pitfall: Contacting customers too often.

Solution: Give customers more space than usual. If you usually call customers every day or two about scheduling an interview, or every four days about approval, give them an extra day or two.

Pitfall: Being whiney

Solution: Don’t send/leave impatient emails and voice mails. Customers generally try to do the best they can, so stay courteous.

I know it’s hard to be patient when you have your own deadlines. I am managing several customer stories right now that I would love to wrap up, but know there’s only so much I can do. Respecting happy customers trumps your deadlines any time of year.

Of course, there are exceptions to the pitfalls above. Some customers are super excited about being featured and you may have no trouble at all with your usual timeframes and process. I’ve actually conducted some great interviews around the holidays because the contacts I interviewed had fewer distractions.

How about you? Do you have your own tips or stories to share about working on customer stories at year’s end?

4 Responses to Top 5 Ways to Annoy Happy Customers this Time of Year

  1. Hi Casey,
    I usually set things up to have some heads down writing work ready for the holidays (still need to earn money!) and am pretty good at staying off of people’s radar this time of year. Unfortunately at the moment I am easily the poster child for this blog entry. For one of my clients, we had made a timely committment to an industry publication for a success story and for some respectable reasons the company to be featured backed out at the last minute, so we found ourselves fishing in December. I was amused at your pitfalls and solutions because last week I voilated every one of them multiple times. I am positive there were some annoyed listeners / readers to voice mail and e-mail and as the result of our efforts.
    The good news – we landed our successful story engagement this morning and should be back on track in a day or two!

  2. Ugh, the dreaded backout! I’ve been there a few times. But the media commitment made that a real crisis.
    Nice job on securing another story though! I know, sometimes being the squeaky wheel works. It’s a tough balance to be persistent yet not annoying. I think you have to keep framing it in those voice mails and emails as a real “joint PR opportunity” for the featured customer too.
    Any tips to share here on what worked?

  3. No magic here. Just a national sales manager from my client company who was as relentless as I was. He fed me names and initiated contacts with e-mail, knowing the time frames we faced, and I followed up on the phone and via e-mail. Because this briefly went into crisis mode, it IS good to have a committed client, who knows the value of keeping the commitment to the media. I have heard editors say they’ve had a story just disappear.

  4. Steve,
    You did get lucky with that commited client. At this time of year, I can see where it would be easy for the sales organization to back out of a commitment of a case study to an editor – while trying to close end of year business. Smart companies know that kind of behavior frays relationships with the media.