It's a (REALLY, REALLY) Small World

by Jeannie Walters

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This is not about social media. Yes, social media has led to the little guy taking on the big guys, like Dave Carroll of “United Breaks Guitars” fame who recently released his 3rd song in the trilogy: “United We Stand.”

Social media has caused companies to sit up and take notice that what they do could be broadcast around the world in seconds.

But it’s always been a small world. Travel through time with me back to 2003…

2003 Example

Seven years ago, when email at our desk was about as tech-connected as most of us were, my husband (a recruiter) posted a job opening in several places on a massive job board. Checking the appropriate categories, he used “internet” and “architect” for the Applications Architect position.

Later that day, he received a FLAMING email from a man we’ll call “Joe Smith.” Joe used several four-letter words to describe how this was NOT an architect job. (Joe was a traditional architect of buildings and houses.) He went on to call my husband several names and tell him how to do his job. My husband, in all his wisdom, sent back a polite email expressing displeasure but ultimately explaining why the categories were selected. Mind you – this was an email. It was not anonymous. His full name and company were on display.

That night I invited my husband to join me for a book launch party. The authors were friends we wanted to support. We showed up and who was checking us in at the door? A friendly, polite man with a nametag that read “Joe Smith.” I had actually met Joe several times before and had always found him polite and friendly. When my husband said that was the name, I almost didn’t believe him. So he decided to approach Joe directly.

I watched (with some friends) from across the crowded party. I saw my husband approach in a friendly manner, extend his hand and introduce himself. He then said he was a recruiter for such-and-such company and thought he received an email from Joe earlier that day. As awareness began to dawn on Joe, his face turned from a smile to an expression of shock and embarrassment. He shook his head and looked down. Then he began apologizing. My husband was gracious and laughed it off, but I was happy he took the direct route and talked to Joe. It’s important for all of us to know that there REAL PEOPLE at the end of emails and phone lines.

Joe approached me later that night to apologize as well. He expressed frustration with the job market, but took full responsiblity for his actions. Water under the bridge, but a big lesson for Joe.

If we don’t remember that there are real people on the receiving end of our communications, we end up dehumanizing  people and situations go from bad to worse quickly.

Your Company. Your People.

What are you doing to remind your people to treat customers, prospects and each other with respect? Pages of process and phone scripts don’t get the job done. It takes real reminders of who these people are.

Ways to Humanize Your Customers

  • Create personas. Personas help you truly understand what makes your customers tick, and helps everyone relate to them as people.
  • Share real stories often. Make sure that customer kudos are shared with everyone at the company. Real world examples help underline how your processes should work.
  • Ask your customers for feedback early and often. Make sure you’re actually listening. I for one have grown tired of being asked “give me all 5’s” on customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Showcase customer-created content. If you are lucky enough to have customers willing to blog, podcast, or create videos about your brand, then really show that off. Don’t behave as if customers are on a separate island from you.
  • Discuss what you can do better – every week. Managers should be seeking out stories of what works and what doesn’t, then sharing that with their colleagues and teams.

Henry Ford started the great march toward efficiency, and some companies never looked back. It’s important to look at your customers as not only your profit center but as your living, breathing brand. Can’t we all just get along?

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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