We understand, by now, the importance of offering solid public-facing content on your website, social media pages, etc. But what about those content areas that we overlook? Did you ever give consideration to the importance of the content in that recent interaction you had with a customer via email or via a direct message on one of your social media platforms? Just because it isn’t directly facing the public, doesn’t mean it is any less important. In fact, it can actually become even more crucial at times.
Let’s say you replied to a customer or client’s email with a brief paragraph and an invitation to call you directly at any time. In response, you received a message that ends with some variation of “I will not be doing business with you again”. What just happened!? Go back and read your initial email again. (Don’t worry. I’ll wait.) Give up? Sure you do, because you honestly have no idea how anyone could have interpreted your email as rude, or why that person is now considering you as such. Let us attempt to figure this thing out, shall we?
Let’s start by taking a look at two scholars, Michael Morris and Jeff Lowenstein, who studied the pros and cons of computer-based interactions, mainly emails. Are you ready for this? They actually wound up in a heated dispute with each other during this study – yes, stemming from a misinterpreted email.
Studies suggest that approximately 50% of all emails are misinterpreted, most of which are never questioned or clarified. Apparently, it even applies to emails about studies about emails. By the end of Morris’s study, he’d found that those who conducted business by email tended to trust each other less and weren’t as willing to work together again. Does this mean we should stop emailing each other and pick up the phone? No, just make sure you optimize that content and read over it very carefully before you click send. Maybe even have a colleague read over it as well if you aren’t quite sure.
While reading a recent blog post, Social Media: The Honeymoon Is Over by Autumn Nicholson, I experienced an “aha” moment.
In reference to Social Media Marketing, Autumn Nicholson wrote, “Everyone distrusts you. Before you can even try to build trust, you have to help tear down the distrust. You aren’t starting at zero; you’re starting with negative numbers.” While the idea itself isn’t new to me, I realized that it was something that I’d never taken the time to really contemplate. When customers and clients choose to engage with you, they come with the highest expectations. Furthermore, chances are they’ve already prepared themselves for you to fail to live up to those expectations. In a world where everything is a gimmick and everyone seems to be taking advantage, they want to know your fine print. They’re waiting for the catch behind your big promises. They’re waiting to see where you too will fall short.
Taking this into consideration, it makes sense that some customers will read the worst into your emails. Many of them have been expecting your worst – especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to form a relationship with you yet. And as Autumn also mentioned, “it’s easier to break a contract than to end a relationship”. When it comes to forming strong client relationships in the digital industry, we’re clearly at a disadvantage. We should be careful to manage the content of our emails with the same care and attention that we give to managing the content of our websites and social media outlets.
Take a step back from your email or direct social message. Chances are you probably wrote it with a particular tone in your head. That’s great, but unfortunately, that tone doesn’t always come across the same way when someone else reads it. Turns out, the tone doesn’t always translate to text. Try reading your message and eliminating the tone in your head. Think about other tones that could be applied and make sure you cover all vantage points.
More often than you’d like to believe, your clear intentions aren’t very clear at all. Reflecting on the statistic that states 50% of all emails are misleading, you’d be mindful to ask yourself, “What is customer service really worth if it too is all digital”. Carefully consider each one of your emails and social media responses before you send them, and if you aren’t sure about something, maybe it’s time to pick up the phone. Yes, we live in a world where everyone is busy, and phone calls are actually considered by most to be an inconvenience (I’m sure Mr. Bell just twitched). It’s true; many would agree that “Reply” has become standard and is generally acceptable, but this is about a little more than being attentive and responsive. It’s about going beyond standard and being a bit more personal. Every now and then, take it offline.
Tori Chambers – EVG Client Specialist