By Barbara Jones, Small Business Automation

Want to see a small business owner pass out? Just say the company’s documentation about that big order that came out wrong is in the sales rep’s smartphone – the smartphone that just left for another job. That is the core issue in having little client relationship documentation outside of text messages.

It is hard to make text messages act as client relationship documentation, even though serial texters may swear that’s what they are doing.  It is like trying to pound the proverbial round peg into a square hole.  Not happening.

Text messages are not documentation.  They don’t live where the rest of the documentation of a prospect/client relationship lives.

Documentation is centrally located where anyone needing it can find it.  It cannot walk out the door of your business leaving no trace.

Documentation is kept in a safe, accessible place.  Cell phones get stolen.  They get replaced.  If they do not belong to the business, there is little/no access to what is stored on the phone.

Documentation uses things that take time like full sentences, whole words, proper names, dates, times, signatures.  It does not employ phrases, abbreviations, or emoticons.

 

Documentation covers every interaction with a prospect or client so there is

a history, a clear paper trail, accountability for both parties.

Text messaging is entirely too busy to care about any of that –

and it is late for an appointment…

 

Documentation covers every interaction with a prospect or client so there is a history, a clear paper trail, accountability for both parties.  Text messaging is entirely too busy to care about any of that – and it is late for an appointment.

The unwillingness to take time for even minimal self-defensive documenting can be a personality trait.  It can also be the result of a commission structure that rewards carelessness in favor of fast closing.

Documenting text messages can be inconvenient.  That can become another reason to avoid it.  It is possible to copy the text of a text message and paste it into an email you send yourself.  Or into the contact record if you are using a CRM (Contact Relationship Management) software like Infusionsoft.  (Full Disclosure: I am an Infusionsoft Certified Partner.)  The important thing is that the text of your message and the prospect/client’s response get included in the contact record with time and date information.  This is especially important if these messages document negotiated extra project work, a price adjustment, a change to the project timeline, a notice of a late shipment.

Why is Texting so dangerous to a business?  Even to a sole proprietor?

  • Scope creep often happens by text message.
  • The business owner only finds out about what was promised by text after the phone containing the text has left.
  • It is easy for a busy solopreneur to lose track of what was promised when to which client – and forget to actually do any of it.
  • It is not possible to forecast sales when you cannot access sales data.

If you want your staff to document every interaction with a client or prospect you must give them easy ways to do that.  Tools they could use at even the busiest times of the busiest day.  A good CRM software will include those tools.  Note Templates are a great tool for this purpose.  You can copy/paste a text message exchange into a note template.  You can summarize a phone call.  You can copy any other staffer who should know about the new information.

If you are at the point of having a small team – say five or ten people – it is time to start creating documentation guidelines to protect your business.  Put the text, picture, and video guidance in your Training Center so you can teach new staffers the standards of documentation you want observed. Use a membership software like Memberium to house this information where everyone can access it at any time.  (Again, I am a Certified Partner.)

Among other things, include the following:

  • A clear statement that text messages that exist only in cell phones do not meet documentation requirements
  • A description of every instance anyone can think of that should be documented
  • New ones added as they make an appearance
  • Still pictures or videos to help explain how to document a conversation or phone call or other interaction
  • Pictures of forms used in prospect and client interactions such as a Change to Work Order form
  • Instructions in several forms (writing, video, etc.) for properly completing the forms
  • Clear explanations in writing of what staff members are authorized to agree to and what they are not

Your team members want to do what you want them to do, so tell them what you want.

Need motivation to start on your documentation guidelines?  At your next networking meeting ask others to share their horror stories.  You will hear some doozies.  When you get back to the office you will start every conversation with, “Texting really is not documenting…”