Just for fun, let’s pretend I like shopping for insurance (it’s called suspension of disbelief, they use it in books all the time).
I do actually need some business insurance (oh, wow, I just opened up the big marketing barn door on this one). So I went to a few sources, one being my car insurance company, USAA. They don’t offer it, but they have a partner who does, The Hartford.
So I went to The Hartford’s web site and spent about 10 minutes filling out a big ol’ form, telling them stuff like type of business, how many employees, location, when I lost my virginity, and how much I think about pickles on a daily basis. I also told them how and when they could contact me. Whew. It was a little mini-project just to get a quote on insurance, but okay. Hit me up, The Hartford. You got my digits.
Several days later, I got this email from Hartford:
First impressions? I just wasted my time filling out an online form. I have to call them anyway. And I’m not going to, because I am an Olympic champion calling people avoider. So admittedly, that’s me being lazy. I wonder how many other potential customers get lazy like that?
But that was kind of trivial compared to what I considered a sin of the worst kind: Sales Anonymity.
They broke my own personal cardinal rule of communicating with customers (or even potential customers). Always, always, always use your name. Not sometimes, or only when you’re a tiny little business, frikkin’ always. Actually, I think it’s particularly important the bigger your business becomes. Sign your name. Sales emails should come from a person, not a company. Email is already impersonal enough and people want to know there’s a connection with a human. We want to know there’s someone on the other end who’s accountable for something.
This email is signed The Specialized Sales Team. How very unspecial. Is it chilly in here?
What this says to me is that even if I do buy insurance from them, I’m probably going to get very unspecial, impersonal service if I ever have a question or a claim. That doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t even matter now if they have a good or inexpensive insurance product.
The Hartford lost the sale before they even got to talk to me. Which is pretty sad, because I was going to swap some pickle recipes with them. Another huge loss for them. I’m sure they’re all depressed over there.
Contrast The Hartford with Zappos. From the very first time I bought shoes from Zappos, I was talking to a person, every time. I can get my shoes cheaper elsewhere, but I trust the people at Zappos. One of our screen print supply vendors, Ryonet, does this very well, too. Every interaction at Ryonet from order to delivery (and support) is with a real person with a real name.
They also address me by name. Nice!
For a customer like me, this is a deal clincher. Hmm, I wonder what clinches it for your customers? Pop quiz! Is it:
- your fancy web form
- your anonymous email autoresponder
- golf visors with an elk on them
- none of the above
I really hope that was too easy and merely amusing.
What you can learn from The Hartford
Frankly, I hate buzzwords like authenticity. Anything meaningful starts to lose impact the more it’s thrown around. But the core idea of authenticity (sorry) is simply that you’re a real person. With feelings and stuff. And a hankering for pickles, maybe.
If you have a small business like ours, that’s not too hard. You can probably shout across the room and tell your customer service and sales people to destroy the canned email templates and use their names.
If you’re a bigger business, it probably means a meeting. More meetings, yay. Why not make it a very different meeting and gather your sales people, customer service people, and web dev team and have them walk through the whole customer experience from interest to product delivery? I’ll bet dollars to pickles that you’ll all come away with some super juicy (dill flavor) nuggets.
Even before that meeting gets scheduled, it takes no time at all to get the word out in your company. No more “Thank You, The Specialized Sales Team” emails. Sign your name.
The Sparky Firepants Blogging Team
Kidding. It’s just me. David.