It’s ALL Customer Service: Living Vicariously

Picture this: you’re at the store picking up a few things, and at the returns desk nearby you hear a customer being shut down before she can finish explaining her situation. It’s not you, but it could be you, and it affects your feelings about the place. Call it vicarious customer service.

The flip side: yesterday at Target the cashier next to mine noticed her customer buying just one item, a cup of yogurt, and volunteered that there are spoons over at the snack bar. A pleasant surprise to that customer, and to me. Clearly the cashier was on the lookout all the time for an opportunity to add a little something extra, a sort of informational lagniappe.

In a nonprofit there are many opportunities to show volunteers, donors, and participants recognition. Seeing it on a website, in a newsletter, or at an event says these people are valued, and by extension, so are you.

The wonderful Wayside House, Inc. in the Twin Cities provides supportive housing and many other services for women recovering from addiction and mental illness. Their newsletters highlight donors and volunteers, and also women from the programs. This isn’t unique, but I believe that type of recognition may be the little something extra some recovering women need, and it’s more than inspiration. They get the message their success is and will be noticed, and that it matters in the larger community.

Suppose someone comments on this post, “This is the dumbest post I have ever read.” I can thank him for his input and perhaps clarify something, or I can say something about his mother. Maybe I even know his mother, but you wouldn’t know that, and you’d draw a conclusion about me. Or perhaps about my mother.

So here’s a new rule: Do unto others as you may one day do unto other others. Because it’s all customer service.

Can You Read Me Now?

Katya Andresen’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog post today is on the importance of “cognitive ease.”  It’s titled Three little tricks to be more persuasive, and though the title is a little on the Manchurian Candidate side, I definitely like the message.  I wrote about complicated language in my post Utilizing Effectuated Methodologies (What?), so I’ll just address legibility here.

Katya writes:

The Nobel-prize-winning [Thinking, Fast and Slow,] author Daniel Kahneman talks about the importance of cognitive ease.  Things that are easy to read and easy to remember can be processed with cognitive ease.  On the other hand, things like instructions in a poor font or faint colors or complicated language cause cognitive strain.

It shouldn’t take a genius to know people need to be able to read something in order to get the message.  Apparently it sometimes does.  (Bonus: try to convince your kids this applies to homework, too.)

I frequently pass two different restaurants that have their owner’s signature as the sign.  I’ve gone by them countless times, and I still sometimes glance over as I’m driving by and think, what is that?

So before you analyze your website or blog’s colors, content, functionality and whatever else, make sure visitors can actually read it.  Then do a web search on accessibility.

Online Sharing and the Fear of Abandonment

We live in a social world, both on and off the web, and love to share things that are interesting, funny, or helpful. Online it should be easy, but often it isn’t and the sharing doesn’t happen.

Here’s an example:

  1. I see something in an email newsletter, maybe an upcoming free webinar, and I want to share it because I know the organization does good work.
  2. I look for a Twitter button, and sometimes get lucky.
  3. Unlike on a blog post or news article, it usually links to the organization’s Twitter profile rather than the specific information. I read back through their Tweets, but more often than not strike out.
  4. Generally I give up here, but if it’s important to me I visit their website.
  5. Often I can’t find the information there or it looks so unprofessional I can’t bring myself to link to it.
  6. I might write my own Tweet, or maybe forward the newsletter to one or two people, but most likely…
  7. I give up.

Another example:

  1. A friend mentions he’s speaking at a tech conference the next day. Great, I’ll spread the word.
  2. He doesn’t have a Twitter account. OK, fine.
  3. He’s a good friend, so I surf around trying to find him and the event, or even just the event. No site, no Twitter account, no LinkedIn. All I can find is the host organization’s home page — which lists last year’s speakers and date.
  4. I give up.

No doubt a more casual visitor (read: sane) would give up sooner. Unfortunately, you can’t measure this type of abandonment.

Find your audience where they are, as they say, but anticipate where their friends might be, too. Take a fresh look at your newsletter, website, blog, and every other place you have an online presence. Ask someone outside your organization to do it, if you can.

How easy is it to share your great content, events and news?

You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth? Authenticity and Your Online Self

toothbrush mouth
Photo credit: Marshall Astor on Flickr

Most all internet denizens have puzzled over how much to let their hair down on the web. On one hand, we know once something’s out there, it’s out there forever. On the other hand, we know if our audience is made up of potential donors, volunteers, customers, or other people we want to connect with, it’s important to be authentic.

So what’s authentic? On social media, a lot of people seem to equate being authentic with cursing like a sailor. (No offense to sailors, thank you for your service.) One well-known social media blogger included an “adult entertainer” on a list of successes we might emulate. I’m curious what his wife thought.

I was reminded of that yesterday when I searched “Think Productive game GTD”* and Google suggested “Think Productive game WTF.” I’ve even seen a rabbi write WTF on a LinkedIn post. What’s that about?

I propose being authentic as a person or an organization means talking about things you care about and find interesting, being honest without spilling everything, and letting your emotions and humor show once in a while.

What do you think?

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* Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Inspiration and the Power of Instant Feedback

I know a young writer who feels so good when he’s inspired, he can hardly write at all when he’s not. Most of us don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration for much of anything, but sometimes it does come.

One source of inspiration for my blog was the invitation from Talance to write a guest post. It was a good opportunity to hit the ground running, or at least jogging a little bit, plus I’m a sucker for flattery. Which recently landed me in a community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof as the Grandma Tzeitl, but that’s another story.

In an article in Productive! Magazine The Power of Less author Leo Babauta likens blogging, posting art online, and releasing beta software to street performance. Here’s what struck me most:

If a street performer isn’t good, people won’t watch. But making a small change in the performance, like a better setup or better patter, can make huge changes in audience reaction and payment. And here’s the thing: they see the effects of those small changes immediately. There’s no wondering, “Will this work? Will it be an improvement or make things worse?” Because they know if it works, if it makes things better or worse, right away….

Whatever you want to do, if you can do something publicly, even in front of a small group, and get instant feedback, that’s pure gold. There’s no better way to improve. There’s no better way to evolve a method or creative process or business model than through this simple technique of constant iteration and natural selection….

There’s no better way to get amazing at something.

Granted, he didn’t say how long it takes to get amazing at something, but I guess that’s the fun part.

Can you add more instant feedback to what you do?