What’s Wrong With You?

Whats_wrong_with_youI’m recovering from the flu and as you can tell by this post’s title my crankiness hasn’t left. So here are a few gripes about business dealings as seen from the customer’s POV (point of view), that’d be mine.

And if there are business lessons here, they’re about how we should be mindful of what we say, or do to our customers. Or we’ll get a message from them saying “What’s Wrong With You?” (which I’m fully expecting after this post). Here’s what we’ll look at:

  • Framing the Conversation with a Sledgehammer
  • A Bill by any other name, would still smell…
  • The Pit of Despair: Phone Message Options

Framing the Conversation with a Sledgehammer

Watch for messages with titles that leave no doubt as to which side of an issue the publisher is on. Here are a couple of examples framing different sides of the same topic (politics).

#1 CNN’s special programming called Broken Government

If you watch CNN, you’ve probably seen their graphic of Broken Government as they present an issue, or in the upcoming window on screen.

By framing the conversation in the title this way it leads one to think:

Broken Government = Current Administration is broken = Obama’s presidency is broken

I searched and couldn’t find CNN running this special programming during the Bush presidency. So, the way CNN has framed this title says they’re against Obama’s presidency (my observation).

However, CNN’s implication of government being broken highlights several underlying assumptions:

  • Government is something that can be fixed
  • Government was fixed at some time in the past
  • CNN knows when Government is fixed

Those assumptions put me into rebuttal mode with:

  • What if the nature of Government is to be constantly changing, always fluid?
  • What if Government will never be fixed because it’s unfixable, like water?
  • Is there a trusted source that could tell us when/if it’s fixed?

#2 Moveon.org’s email: “Washington’s Broken”

Here’s one from the liberal citizens’ movement Moveon.org. The same sledgehammer approach to framing the conversation. This time the rationale goes like this:

Washington’s Broken = Must Fix It Now Or Bad Things Happen = Take the Action We Want You To

One can identify the same underlying assumptions, and my rebuttals that go to this messaging. It’s just trying to get the audience to do something different than CNN’s messaging.

Takeaway for Businesses

When framing the conversation is done heavy-handedly, it becomes manipulation. And when it’s that obvious, it raises hackles and throws objectiveness and credibility out the window (some might say it shoves the BS meter off the charts).

That’s a shame because there may be valuable information to be gained if one starts with an open mind.

For your customers: when composing messages, titles, banners, headlines, etc. seek some level of objectivity. Otherwise you’ll lose that which you’re seeking: customers’ open minded attention.

A Bill by any other name, would still smell…

Comcast provides a bill online, Ecobill, and you can discontinue the paper bill. They”re greenwashing it as an ecologically responsible way to pay.

That’s really stretching the green thing. Yes, I’m not receiving paper, and that makes it green. But the company is saving millions in not printing and mailing these dinosaur bills.

When is doing something that’s just plain better for a company’s bottom line going to get pushed in customers’ faces as doing something for the environment?

Takeaway for Businesses

A little more honesty upfront and you can still keep the self-serving catch phrase.

In Comcast’s case, if they’d included a little honesty that they were saving money, then the message would be more believable.  Ecobill could have stated they were passing those cost savings on to customers by keeping their costs down (see, didn’t even cost them anything).

The Pit of Despair: Phone Message Options

Here’s a great example of developers not working with users for a better interface.

Of the many different phone services that have voice mail options, few get the order of instructions right. There are many different phone services, not all have you press the same key to just leave a message.

Some services say just hang up, or press #,  or press 1, or press 79, or press.

You get the idea, there’s a different instruction with different services. Not all have you do the same thing.

Here’s  the problem. Almost every service doesn’t tell you what that key to press to leave a message UNTIL the end of a long list of other options, such as review, revise, delete, priority, etc.

And leaving a message is probably the most common choice 95% of the time. So why wait to the end to tell us that? Start the instructions by telling us how to do what we want to do 95% of the time?

And while I’m at it, why don’t all the phone services get together and decide on a common key for leaving a message, or replaying, or re-recording, or appending, or deleting, or…? Create a standard messaging system protocol, make it easier on all customers.

Takeaway for Businesses

It’s almost too obvious, but getting customer input in the development phase is crucial, even for a facility service offering. If not through focus groups, then one-on-ones with friendly customers/prospects.

Time to Rest

Hoping to return to some form of normalcy shortly and shake the flu. Maybe this post has prodded you to consider where in your customer communications or interactions you’re getting it maddeningly wrong.

Chris Arlen
President, Revenue IQ

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