Are You A Coward? I Was

Over the last month, I have come to hate emails and answerphones; not because I get 100 emails every day but because emails and answerphones are fast becoming the tool of the coward. At Beyond Philosophy we worked with a client a while ago whose account managers and sales teams never used to speak to anyone! They just used to send emails. If the customer called in they were greeted by answerphones which were kept on all day. You see the sales teams were all busy doing "real" work. The customers were just interrupting them. Surely this must be the height of "inside out" behaviour.

But why do people do this?

Primarily, it is because we all feel we can say things in emails that we would never say face to face. In my experience this never works how people would expect. No matter how hard you try, you think you have written one thing and the person reads something else. Before you know it you have lost a customer or lost a friend. We seem to forget that that all important 'relationship' with the customer is built on human contact, not emails!

One example springs to mind a few years ago when I worked in a multinational organisation and was involved in a large internal project. Things were not going well. I decided to send a "broadside" to the party who were driving me nuts! I took great delight in constructing the email. It was actually quite therapeutic. I worked on it to get the right message across so they would absolutely read between the lines and understand what I thought. I pressed the button and off into the ether it went. I remember thinking, 'Great I have told them what I think'. COWARD! How stupid I was, how naive, how self-righteous I was, and how wrong I was!

I lived to regret it. The email caused a big argument. I had said things that were misinterpreted despite my best attempts to be clear. I ended up upsetting a lot of people. I ended up regretting sending it. I was wrong. Since that day I now have adopted a few rules with emails that I would like to share with you.

1. Insist that all calls are answered by people and answer phones are banned other than outside office or opening hours.

2. Never reply to an email when you are emotionally charged. DO NOT type a reply and press the send button, until you have had a cooling off period. Put it in your "Draft" emails and look at it the next day. I always end up changing mine.

3. When you think "Shall I talk to them or shall I send them an email? It is at that moment when that little voice in your heads says; "No, just send them an email that'll be simpler, you don't want to talk to them it may be embarrassing?.." That is exactly the time I know I MUST talk to them. So pick up the phone and talk! It's never as bad as you expect and people always appreciate it.

4. Finally a plea. When anyone sends you an email, please reply. Don't just ignore it. Reply even to say "GO AWAY". I find it amazing that you can send an email to someone and they don't even have the courtesy of replying. What's your thought? If you have a view, drop me a line!

Colin Shaw Founding Partner, Beyond Philosophy © Beyond Philosophy 2004 - Ref. QR

Colin Shaw is the Founding Partner of Beyond Philosophy and guru of the Customer Experience Management. He has also produced two most successful books on customer experience which are now available in market. His first book, Building Great Customer Experiences sold out within just eight weeks, is on a third reprint and available in paperback.

Colin's second book, Revolutionize Your Customer Experience released in September 2004 and considered as Bible in Customer managment business world.

Colin has enjoyed over 20 years of experience working in blue chip companies, including Mars Ltd., Rank Xerox and BT. Colin's final position was Director of Customer Experience for one of the world's largest global companies. In his career, he has held senior positions in a number of different functional areas including Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Training.

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