When a company makes a mistake, what do you as a customer want? It’s easy. You want acknowledgement that something happened. You’d love an apology. And you want the company to act to resolve the problem.
These are the “Three A’s” that I learned from teaching customer service years ago. More so, in all aspects of the business, we want something other than the plastic perfection portrayed by PR and advertisers.
We Want the Real Thing
In a recent New York Times article about the Gen Z pop artist Billie Eilish, it was reported that the singer forgot the lyrics to one of her own songs at Coachella, the massive concert event. Instead of skewering her, the live audience and millions of YouTube viewers erupted with loud support for what they took as Eilish being human. And as bizarre and otherworldly as her music and videos might be, right there beneath the angsty exterior is a strong sense of “I can relate to this person.”
Companies should highlight and promote their quirks, their unique employees, the stuff that makes them specifically who they are. Good or bad. A crabby company president might be perceived as humorous as long as their interactions are straightforward and spelled out ahead of time. Can you imagine? “Our president can be grumpy, but she’s also great at solving your challenges.” I’d trust that far more than a fake smile or clip-art people all over your website.
While I’m on the subject of websites for a moment, don’t use clip art. Multicultural people shaking hands over an office table is generic. So are happy old people at your counter. Look into using real pictures of real people and make the site even more believable.
We CAN Handle the Truth
Sorry, Jack Nicholson. We’re ready. When dealing with customers, it’s imperative that companies communicate and interact with a genuine, sometimes-flawed, human point of view and perspective. We want people with real names at the company to represent the brand. We want to reach out and connect with these people before, during, and after the purchase process.
Oh, and if your small business is just you? Then say “I” and not “we.” That “we” for just one person was a tactic back in the 1980s. It just took a while for people to catch up.
When your company makes a mistake, make a clear and straightforward apology and don’t try the old cover-up routine. There are too many examples of companies being found out, and then trust is shattered.
“People Won’t Want That”
I’ve been studying how culture and companies keep trying to map their reality to something from decades ago. It’s interesting to watch entertainment for one marker.
- “People won’t go to a primarily African American superhero movie.” - Black Panther nets $1.34 billion.
- “People don’t like female superheroes.” - Captain Marvel just passed $400 million.
This happens all the time on Main Street, too. We think that “people” won’t want a barber shop that also pours whiskey, but then someone opens a unique store concept and it thrives for that reason. It’s not the same as everything else.
Times are changing faster than ever before, and a lot of what used to be a “known good” is in flux. But one trend that companies must adapt to or risk running afoul of the world around us is that you must strive to create the most “real” version of what you offer and how you represent yourself and the company.
Be personable. Be quick to apologize when you’re wrong. And deliver an accurate depiction of who your company is and what it represents. Your buyers will appreciate it and that will reflect in your efforts to retain customers and earn referrals.
About Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advisesleadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.
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