We appreciate your feedback. We apologize for the inconvenience. We hope to hear from you soon. “We” probably think we’re giving our best customer service, but the customer of 2017 likely feels angry or detached from us.
What’s wrong with we?
“We” equals not my problem. “We” equals bureaucracy. “We” equals the man! “We” throws refund protocol, terms and conditions, and company policy at customers. Argh! It might not seem much, but in a world where commerce is becoming ever more about a personalized experience, these two letters carry a lot of clout in terms of customer psyche. They could be the difference between your customer feeling alienated and your customer feeling appreciated.
So how did it go so wrong when we thought we were doing everything right? Firstly, it’s comfortable. Speaking as “the company” removes the blame, on occasion the guilt, and it allows us to not get personally involved in the customer’s “two-days-outside-of-the-refund-policy” fiasco. Hide behind the system, move on.
Speaking as “the company” removes the blame, on occasion the guilt, and it allows us to not get personally involved in the customer’s “two-days-outside-of-the-refund-policy” fiasco.
Formalities have changed
We’ve also been conditioned to think that this is the way “formal” interactions should go. From practicing polite letters in our school days to leaving Tesco though a door reading “We hope to see you again soon,” it’s been hardwired into us that speaking in the third-person voice is polite, formal, and trustworthy; how a customer should be spoken to, right? In the last decade, however, times have changed.
My opinion is this: there are two factors that caused the shift and part one is the financial crisis. When it hit in 2007, trust in institutions and businesses, large or small took a nosedive. The faceless man telling consumers that “we” are very sorry for the inconvenience, and that “our” policy is such-and-such is no longer good enough; customers want answers, accountability, and to know who you are and what you can do for them.
The second half is the rise of customer-centric businesses—Facebook, Instagram, MyFitnessPal, and MyProtein. Me, me, me. The customer today is used to having themselves as centre stage and the service they expect reflects this. The product of these factors is a customer base who want more from customer service. You have to keep up with the changing tide of customer expectations and react accordingly. It is no different than if your customer service team is running on Windows 95 and your customers are on iOS 10. Blue screen error. System down.
You have to keep up with the changing tide of customer expectations and react accordingly. It is no different than if your customer service team is running on Windows 95 and your customers are on iOS 10.
Transition the power to me
So how do we combat this? Make the transition away from “we” and over to “me” and “I.” And yes, this does take work. It pushes us away from our conditioned customer service mindset and removes the curtain on anonymity. But this small change will have a big effect, on both your customers and your customer service agents. It’s the power of empowerment.
The key point is striking a balance—where you can level with your customers, remove the pretense, and make your service a little more personal. Writing, “Yo it’s your buddy John here. Let me just check that out for you, no sweat man! *high-five emoji* xoxo” to a key client complaining about shipping might not go down so well. Better would be, “I am so sorry to hear that you didn’t get your package on time. I’ll find out where it is, and I’ll make it right for you, Hang on!” Like I said, it’s all about balance.
Go ahead, remove the comfort blanket and give a little more of yourself to your customer. Oh, and if it all goes to pot, we accept no responsibility for damages to your customer services department that may have been caused by advice in this article.
Haylee Potts works for a tech startup based near London. When she's not creating cocktail-themed jam recipes, she can be found ticking countries off of her bucket list.