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Communication, Responsibility, Leadership and Customer-centricity

Customer Experience

Did I make a ridiculous fuss about nothing?

Recently, a reader (pxfast) read this post on Klassic Books and commented:

“You are making a ridiculous fuss about nothing. Leaving feedback is a normal part of online trade so we know whom to trust. It was request, not an order, although the email could have been worded slightly differently so as to be clear it was optional. But is there enough time to consider all nit-pickers? What your list of questions has to do with the email I do not know, but you seem to be super-sensitive about your own affairs. They were simply confirming your order and politely requesting an optional acknowledgment in return, not a surly reply.”

I like to think of myself as a learner so I revisited this post and the memory of my experience. Then I went and looked at instances where I had been complimentary about the communications of book companies. Three instance came to mind:

If you look through these three cases of communication and compare them with case of Klassic books, I am confident that you will notice the following regarding the communications:

a) Better World Books and the RocketSurgery Crew are being of service to me – making my life easier and/or enriching my life. Whereas the Klassic Books communication is focussed on its needs and asking/expecting me to make the time/effort to fulfil their needs.

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b) The tone of the Better World Books and the Rocket Surgery Crew communications lands as human/warm – human talking to a fellow human being possible across a cafe table. Whereas the tone of Klassic Books shows up as corporate/cold – lacking that human touch.

I say it is possible that I misinterpreted the intent of Klassic Books. I say it is possible that I read into their email to me what was not in the email. I say it is quite possible that I have been ‘unfair’. And the issue is that my experience is not as such. My head may speak this way, my heart does not.

My experience is that Klassic Books expected me to provide them a good customer review simply because they delivered a book on time. Something that shows up as ‘table stakes’ of being an Amazon partner and getting my business. And when I did not provide them with the review they sent me a second email and told me off for being a ‘naughty customer’: We once again request you to leave your valued feedback on this purchase.”

What stance can you take regarding your communications to your customers?

Before I dive into this I wish to point out that the lack of communication (including none at all) is powerful in itself. Why? Because, no communication communicates! I hope that you get that. Now let’s dive into the matter of communication and its relationship to customer-centricity and leadership.

When it comes to communication it is worth remembering the following:

- the communication will land/be experienced in a specific way e.g. helpful, unhelpful, warm, cold, relevant, irrelevant…;

- the communication will make an impact leaving the customer thinking more or less highly of you and feeling closer or more distant towards your organisation; and

- the communication will elicit a response – a non-response is a powerful response if you listen for it.

Which is my way of saying that when you communicate – and you cannot help communicating because you are always communicating – you act on your customers. And when you act on your customers they respond, they communicate to you.

Now my question is this, who is responsible for the response that your communication calls forth from your customers? It occurs to me that you can stand in one of two places.

1. You can make the customer responsible for his/her response to your communication. This often leads to labelling and blaming when customers don’t respond as expected. Customers are labelled ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, ‘greedy’ and so forth. And they are blamed for not responding to requests, filling in forms incorrectly, asking ‘stupid’ questions, wasting company time…. This the default stance of many/most folks and organisations. Why? The charitable view is that we are blinded by our intentions and not the consequences of our communication. The less charitable view is that we will do just about anything to ‘look good and avoid looking bad”.

Notice that this is what pxfast – the reader who triggered this post – is doing. He is criticising me and other customers like me as ‘nit-pickers’. Have you noticed the negative labels being applied? ”Ridiculous fuss” and “nit-picker” If a customer is labelled a “nit-picker” and “causing a ridiculous fuss” then the logical thing to do is to ignore that customer. I call that a ‘get out of jail’ card being played.

2. You can take responsibility for the customer’s response to your communication. This is taking responsibility as in I am the author of this response. Or I am the ’cause in the matter of’ the communication that I have received from the customer. This mode of being is rare at the individual, group or organisational level.

If you want to show up as a leader and/or as a customer centric organisation then embrace responsibility as opportunity

I say that if you want to show up as a leader then it is necessary for you to own up to your communication: how it lands, what impact it makes, and what response/s it generates.

I say that if you want your organisation to show up customer-centric then all the people, especially those who communicate with your customers, must take responsibility for their communication and the communication of your whole organisation: how it lands for your customers, what impact it makes in/on your customers, and the responses it generates from your customers.

Why take responsibility? Because, it is the most powerful place to stand if you wish to be effective. When you take responsibility you let go of the option/luxury of labelling/blaming customers. Instead you listen for how your communication lands, what impact it makes, and what responses it generates. And where there is a difference to what you expected you say to yourself “How interesting! I wonder what I did to cause that? I wonder what I need to do more of? And what do I need to do less of? And what do I need to do differently to show up the way that I want to show up in the lives of my customers and generate the kind of response that I am up for generating?”

When you have that kind of listening then you have all that you need to become a master of communication; every leader has to be/become a master of communication; and every customer-centric organisation has to be a master of communication. And if you have not noticed then ‘social’ is all about effective communication between you, your people (employees), your customers.

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