What Does Tentatively Mean To You?

By: Joe Crisara

What Does Tentative Mean?

Once in a while there’s a subject that crosses the boundaries between sales and customer service that Joe and I fight over who actually get’s to blog about it. Today I won.

We are busy people, as I am sure the rest of you are too. We have been so busy around here lately that we decided we needed an extra set of hands to help with some of the daily chores and hired a woman from My Girl Friday. Colette. She’s awesome!

Busy, Busy, Busy

She does anything from clean the house to drop off the dry cleaning to setting up appointments for me. Last week I asked her to do just that, schedule six appointments with local architects. I know what you are thinking, six is a lot, but if you could see where we live I fully expected half of them not to show up.

She Did One Better, or Did She?

When I came home last Friday there was a neatly typed up letter on my counter listing the names of seven architects. As I scanned over each one I noticed the last one had a heading in bold marked “Tentatively.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I thought about if for a second and figured it must mean she will be calling me some time during the week to confirm the appointment.

We met with each architect individually throughout the week, telling them how we would like to turn our home into resort-like-living, each time getting a little more detailed and a little more lavish about how we visualized ourselves living in the home. (I’ll save those details for another blog) After talking to the sixth architect we were worn out. We finished up and went out to run a few errands and eat lunch.

While we ate I received a phone call from the last remaining architect. She called me about two hours before we were to meet letting me know that because our appointment was tentative she needed to re-schedule. I politely told her that since we hadn’t heard anything from her all week we we’re not expecting to be home anyways.

She seemed a little taken aback by my response and said that a “tentative appointment is a confirmed appointment unless you hear from the person otherwise.”  Now I was a little taken aback and didn’t really know what to say.

This got me to thinking, “what does tentatively mean to you?”

Merriam-Webster’s on line dictionary defines “tentatively” as…

1 : not fully worked out or developed <tentative plans>
2 : hesitant, uncertain <a tentative smile>

It’s pretty straight forward.

What Should Tentatively Mean To You?

Whether you are a Customer Service Representative booking calls over the phone or a Sales Person out in the field, if the word tentative or tentatively comes up at the end of your call it most likely means you did not get the job. If you have to rely on a tentative answer, you did not do your job to its fullest. You missed a step and created confusion in the customers mind, or worse yet, they now mistrust you.

What should you do if the call is being left in a state of tentativeness? Start over again. Fall on the sword and let your customer know that you must have done something wrong in explaining things. Would they allow you this one mulligan to do it over again?

You should never finish a call with an uncertain outcome. There should always be a clear future to every call, even if it is an appointment to call back and set a more definite appointment.

At the end of the call with the seventh architect she asked me if I would like to set up another appointment at this time.

In the end I gave her a tentative cancellation.

5 thoughts on “What Does Tentatively Mean To You?

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