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Out-of-office alerts, on-hold recordings, and email footers don’t have to be boring. I’ve always wanted anyone who interacts with my company to be delighted with their experience. I learned this 20 years ago in San Francisco.
I was wandering Fisherman’s Wharf on a gorgeous spring day. There was a crowd of people standing on one side of the street, silent and smiling and staring at something.
It was odd enough that I paused my sightseeing to find out what was happening. It turns out, a shabbily-dressed man had been hiding behind a building and when unsuspecting pedestrians walked by, he kept jumping out at them and yelling “Boo!”
Each time it happened, the crowd, of which I was now a part, laughed quietly so as not to tip off the next victim. We watched for a half an hour and the man put on a great performance. Many people dashed across the street to throw money into his hat in appreciation of the entertainment value. He surprised about a dozen people, and although someone almost punched him, the rest had a good laugh. Eventually the street performer came out from his hiding place, took a bow, and left. The applause was thunderous and he had absolutely delighted us.
I think about that experience frequently – remembering how delighted we all were and how easy it can be, particularly in our business lives, to turn the mundane into memorable. Here are three opportunities to consider:
We all know the standard message: “This is John Doe at Company. I’m either on the phone or away from my desk, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
This standard message tells callers nothing, gives unnecessary instructions, and is utterly forgettable. Instead why not:
One of the best on-hold experiences I have had was with ING Direct. Instead of music, the memorable voice of Frederik de Groot provided me with interesting facts and statistics about being on-hold. Did you know that the average person spends seven hours a week in traffic?! Instead of ignoring the recording until a human picked up, I was thoroughly entertained and a little disappointed when I finally got through.
When a recording tells me “we appreciate your patience” and “your call is important to us”, it feels disingenuous. Music is okay, but few companies take the opportunity to grab my attention and delight a customer.
Most of the emails I receive have one of two admonishments in the footer. They are either threatening me on the off chance I was not the person the message was intended for, or they insinuate I am an environment killer printing my emails willy-nilly and taking down the Amazon in the process.
If these are real fears, go ahead and use that footer. If not, consider sending a message that tells me something that I might be interested in or that might assist me. Direct me to a great TED talk or give me an unusual quote to consider (no Einstein, please).
Three quick opportunities to turn the mundane into memorable. Share the simple ways you routinely delight people in the comments.
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