Jun 1, 2008

An Issue of Character

A good judge of someone’s character is their propensity towards returning email. We’ve all been in the situation where we are left wondering why we’ve not heard back. Be it the boss who doesn’t respond to our latest request. The job interview that suddenly switches to radio silence after the third round. The contact who doesn’t acknowledge our not-exactly-out-of-the-blue pitch. Or the date who suddenly stops responding after several pleasant evenings.

What follows is a fairly unpleasant internal drama: Was it something I said? Did I get the address wrong? Was my email too forward? Did I accidentally write “worship Satan” in the sig line? Is the person ill? Have they somehow heard false rumors about me?

It’s not a pleasant feeling and it significantly reduces our feelings of self-worth and makes us feel anything but kindly towards the perpetrator. We’re angry at them for making us feel so unappreciated and it's hard not to take it personally.

So why do so many companies act this way towards their customers?

Whether it’s the complaint letter that goes unanswered. The much commented on blog posting that goes unresponded to. (I’m talking both positive and negative blog posts.) The customer service manager who never calls back. The installer or service rep who never shows up. The phone chain that cuts us off after 20 minutes spent on hold.

All those things make a customer feel unloved, unwanted and quite frankly, dissed. They undo, to paraphrase David Armano, years of positive customer service and advertising and brand interaction in one fell swoop.

They’re easy to remedy. Easy to avoid. And yet companies keep doing them. Over and over again.

Leaving the door wide open for the ones who don’t.

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