The Element of Surprise

Shocking Awe!

Shocking Awe! (Photo credit: The Opus)

I think I may have surprised someone today. I just reached out. I picked up the phone and called a consumer that had a concern.

At large organizations we implement practices and procedures and protocol to make sense of the many varied activities requiring attention. The intention is pure: help people understand what they should do, how they should do it, and under what circumstances. But sometimes all of these measures that inform and protect can simply be a barrier to doing the right thing quickly. I know this because I am sometimes the “we” that designs the afforementioned practices, procedures, and protocols.

Today I had a consumer ask a valid question on Facebook about an advertisement. My team reached out to me to find out what the answer was and how we should respond. Well, we want the consumer to have correct information, and we want him to get the right message from that information. And so we think about what should be said before we respond, to make sure the answer correctly states the company position, the steps we are taking to investigate his question, all of that. I happened to be running late for a meeting with my team but wanted to close the loop for this consumer. Once I had the answer, my normal course of action would be to word the answer responsibly and send it on to someone that sends it on to the person that will answer the question. But all of those people were in the meeting I was running late for. So I thought, “well, this seems too complicated.” And then it hit me and I felt that quick sense of certainty you get when the answer is so simple.

I just picked up the phone and called the consumer directly myself. I think I probably scared the guy; surely he wasn’t expecting my call from his Facebook inquiry. But I thought, in social, isn’t the point to be social? If a consumer socially reaches out to point out a question he has, isn’t it just as social for me to pick up the phone and call him with my answer?

I know, I can hear the questions. Shouldn’t you answer the consumer in the preferred channel of choice? Shouldn’t you let the team close the loop to gather the metrics and fully understand the interaction? I thought of all those things quickly. But then what I got to in the end was, when you subtract out all the technology, there’s a person that asked me a question, and I know the answer, and isn’t the most direct thing for me to do just to… answer the question?

So I did. And I followed up with a return email thanking him for bringing up his question. And our team will close their loop somehow. But now, our consumer knows that when he tosses a question out into the cosmic void, a legitimate, sensible question, that someone really reads it. And that someone is sensible and can pick up the phone and provide him with a sensible answer. And thank him for bringing up the question.

Since we’re all so concerned about customer experience, I thought that if I were a customer, I might respect that. And whether he becomes a customer in the future or forever remains a consumer, won’t it be nice to know that he’ll hopefully remember I called him personally and took the time to acknowledge he had a legitimate question and that I was reaching out for an answer? I think I would like it.

Open to your thoughts.

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