I was recently trying to find correspondence from a few years ago in one of my old email inboxes. When I began pulling up things from 2002, I started to feel like I was unearthing scrolls from another era.
I know some of these emails were even sent via a dial-up phone modem. Yes, real anthropology here.
I came across a letter that I had written to a lawyer during a contentious period. I cringed and laughed simultaneously.
Wow, I used impressive words. And you can practically hear my teeth gnashing as you read it.
Plus, I felt so strongly about some points, I chose to make them 3 or 4 times.
I closed that document realizing that a letter I wrote in my mid-30’s is not the same one I would write in my mid-40’s. It’s not that I don’t occasionally still get that worked up over things. Good grief, I do.
But, I (hopefully) have learned to better pick my battles and focus mental and emotional energy as the years have passed.
I often kid with folks that one of the most useful revelations you can have is that not every negative thing that happens in the world is due to a conspiracy against you.
The world can be full of annoyances beyond our control. Whether an annoyance turns into anger, however, is greatly within our control.
One of the seldom-considered facts about anger is that our level of anger over an issue is not always highly-correlated to its proper priority or relevance.
So, instead of using our limited resources of attention and energy on our more important issues, we allow those resources to be drained by whatever matter – or person - we allowed to get “under our skin” today.
While the subject seems like a topic from an Oprah rerun, I’d suggest it may be increasingly relevant for our businesses in the near future.
Few doubt that the banking industry is entering a more tumultuous time than even the last few years have been. Change can breed confusion, missteps, and communication breakdown. There are likely to be annoyances aplenty.
But most of those annoyances are simply part of the ante we pay to play in this game. And all players will deal with them.
While there will be many ways folks successfully deal with these annoyances, you can bet that just getting angry about a changed situation isn’t one of them.
A phone call last week reminded me that lots of businesses likely overestimate the influence of their “marketing” and underestimate the impact of their most basic customer interactions.
I needed to call my doctor’s (whom I like) office (which I don’t) to confirm an appointment.
I misplaced the card with her direct line and had to call a centralized number for her group. After punching a few numbers and being required to say the city the office is in, (Forrest Gump-like : Suuugar Laaannnd), the phone rang in my doctor’s office.
On about the third ring, a person who sounded like I had caught her in the middle of fighting a chemical fire answered. She spoke so quickly and abruptly that I now wasn’t quite sure I had the right number.
Here’s a hint: When the first words out of most customers’ mouths are, “I’m sorry. Is this ____?” - your phone answering skills can use some polishing.
I explained the purpose of my call, and she said, “Let me check the calendar.” Instantly, I was on hold and listening to commercials about that doctor group.
Who knew we’d ever actually miss Muzak?
I was invited to follow them on Twitter and Facebook… oh, about 15 times in the next 7 minutes on hold. Side note: Isn’t technology advanced enough by now to change the message from talking about how great a company is, to a “We’re so sorry you’re still holding” message after, oh, 5 minutes?
She finally came back, gave me the date and time, and was off the phone within 10 seconds. If I wasn’t sure that I was an interruption before, I was clued in by then.
Office visits are similar. There are lots of posters of smiling people and even TV’s playing promotional videos.
But the staff looks like they’re taking their SAT’s and talk to you like they’re being personally charged per word. I’ve had dentists tell me I need root canals in more pleasant manners.
I have no doubt that this doctor group spends good money on marketing and “customer service” messaging. They likely look at their offices and have listened to their recordings and are happy with the impressions they believe are being made.
But it’s the “moving parts” (people) of an organization that make impressions that truly matter.
Your brand isn’t just what folks know about you, it’s how they feel when interacting with you.
How will your next contact make a customer feel about you?