Rather than watch the latest box-set on Netflix or reading the BBC News app about how Brexit is becoming an omnibus soap opera, I like to catch up with a little admin on my laptop when I am travelling to customers.

But there’s one cardinal rule for me: I never take or make calls whilst on a train that may divulge a customers project or plan.

This might sound like I am being over cautious, and perhaps paranoid. But hear me out, and you might consider doing the same.

A few weeks ago, I heard someone on the phone, all suited and booted, talking about how they were going to convince a customer to bring them onboard as a consultant. But speaking with the customer, they had a budget restriction and the decision maker was “a complete idiot“. This person went on to say this customer’s transformation programme was “doomed to fail” and led by a team of “inept monkey wranglers“.

I learnt all this and more within 5 minutes of them sitting down on the train. I knew what the customer’s budget was. I knew who the decision makers were and what they thought about them.

And the worst part was – the customer mentioned was someone I worked with previously!

Breach of customer trust

If I was that customer, I would be considering the possibility of moving to another supplier. It is simply unacceptable to discuss a customer’s plan and talking smack about the team that pays you to help them achieve success.

As trusted consultants, we have a responsibility to ensure we uphold the integrity and trust with our customers. Having open conversations by phone or face-to-face in a public place endangers that trust.

So why do we do it?

We live in a connected world. The ability to work remotely has enabled us to become more productive when we are travelling between customer meetings. It’s rare to see someone on a train who is not on their phone, tablet or laptop.

Unfortunately, we tend to forget that with this great power there is a great responsibility. In the pursuit of being more productive for our customers, we begin splurting out details about our customers.

The next thing you know, 100+ people in the carriage now knows your customer’s plan. And it only takes one of those people to ring your customer to let them know how careless you are.

How to maintain your customer’s trust?

But there are ways to maintain your integrity and trust with your customer:

  • If you need to make calls – do them in your office or in a private space. It’s better to schedule these calls for when you are not travelling.
  • If an unexpected call comes in, answer it and tell the caller you are on a train or in a public place.
  • Forward calls to your voicemail and then respond by email if its urgent. I do this a lot if the question or discussion is time sensitive.
  • Avoid making calls to your colleagues or peers where you need to discuss a customer. Particularly if you have finished a challenging customer meeting – you might end up saying the wrong thing!

Do you have any tips or tricks you want to share?

Please let me know in the comments.

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