I opened the email and it made me angry.
I wasn’t having my best day.
With looming deadlines, a business to run and a child to parent, it wasn’t the ideal time to send me a rude email.
Maybe I’m a bit sensitive to bad communication. What with being a “communication expert” and all.
I REALLY notice when it’s bad.
Without publicly shaming the company involved, I’ll just say that this email was not engaging.
It was verging on rude. It was formal, instructional, non-human.
Frankly, my immediate feeling was that I’d prefer to cancel the order with said company.
(I was having a bad day)
It had lines like:
“I write in respect of the above noted order”
“May I respectfully take this opportunity to inform you”
“Full charges will be levied in the event of this scenario materialising”
Seriously? Who even says that?
Do this, do that, we want this, we want that.
It was all about them and I was the paying customer. Had they forgotten that?
They may have also forgotten that I was a human being. It was so far from conversational.
And then after that delightful introduction what really riled me, was that the delivery date we had agreed on had changed to a different date I knew nothing about.
They must think customers love this sort of unexplained surprise in their inbox!
After I got over my initial irritation, I hit the reply button.
Then I stopped to think.
I didn’t want to mirror their “behaviour” (behaviour is what it felt like).
I didn’t want to be rude back.
It’s not my style.
And this is the thing about communicating on behalf of your business or brand. It should be in line with what you are all about, and what you represent. Your tone of voice, and style of communication, ought to demonstrate what you are all about.
The fact is, the way you communicate is a demonstration of what you are all about, like it or not.
I wrote back, conversationally, querying the email. I was open about my confusion, while remaining polite and friendly, and asked if they could confirm whether what we’d initially agreed on was still correct.
Then the phone rang.
It was them.
It turns out I’d been sent an automated email!
Oh my God, even worse, I thought. I imagined how all their customers must be feeling on receipt of this computer generated (yet programmed-by-a-human) crap.
The chap I spoke to was friendly and conversational. He was speaking to a person, after all.
He explained the situation and put my mind at ease.
If only they could have come across like that in the initial email, I thought!
And that is the point.
You can either create an opportunity to connect with your customer or create an opportunity to misrepresent yourself, and at worst, disengage the customer.
It’s your choice. No excuses for bad communication. Just bad choices.
If you think your business is customer friendly and delivering a great service, have you taken a look at how you communicate?
What language do you use?
Is it friendly, open and honest or is it formal, disguising or deceiving?
Does it help demonstrate the kind of business you are, and your personality?
Does the way you write bring the values of your business to life?
What tone do you use?
Have you thought about how you would like someone to receive that communication and what you want to happen as a result of it?
What do you think your customers would appreciate the most?
There are three simple things we can all do before we communicate, that will make a massive difference. And they are really quite easy:
Stop and think about who you are communicating with, and just for a moment put yourself in their shoes
Think about the purpose of the communication. What would you like that person to think, feel, say and do as a result of the communication?
How do you want to come across? What is your brand personality? What tone and language are going to put your business in its best light? How are you going to engage with your customer?
I’m guessing had that email been worded differently, and explained in a similar tone to the phone conversation, I’d have been a much happier customer.
So it is worth taking the time to think about how you want to communicate with people.
And then choose to do so.
No excuses for bad communication.
Just bad choices.
All the best
You can follow Leading Conversations on Twitter @leadingconv for all the latest inspiration and conversations.
Lucy Griffin-Stiff, is the Founder of Leading Conversations a Strategic Communications and Engagement consultancy. Lucy works with businesses of all shapes and sizes to help them create a clear proposition, messaging, and communications strategy to connect with the audience that matters to them.