Whilst trying to clear my inbox the other day, what struck me was how email has gone from being an informal way of communicating to a very, very personal one. So what does this have to do with CRM you may ask? Well, it got me thinking about whether, when it comes to customers, over-familiarity breeds contempt.
For instance, it’s generally accepted that you can forgo ‘Dear Ms Druce’ for a ‘Hi Louise’ as an email opener – addressing someone by their first name is a style I use myself (when appropriate). Even a very British line about the weather or a ‘how are you?’ is a fairly common way to warm the email up to the main pitch.
But, without naming and shaming anyone here, it’s surprising how many people go that one step further. One example was a PR, who I had never previously spoken to, who spent a couple of paragraphs telling me about a recent holiday and a case of bad sunburn. Great – but since I have no idea who you are it would be nice to get to the point! There was another who, only having ever spoken to me briefly once on the phone, was regaling email tales of the after-effects of a boozy night out as if we were chatting about it like old mates down the pub.
It’s not just email. I remember having a chat with a contact centre operator – well, he did most of the talking! – about what he was getting up to at the weekend when I was hoping he could help sort out a problem with my mobile. I appreciated the sentiment of not having to endure what always seems like endless minutes of silence while he was calling some details up on the screen, but telling me he couldn’t wait to get out of the office wasn’t filling me with confidence that every attention was being paid to resolving my issue.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should go back to stiff, formal conversations delivered in the style of a 1950s BBC newsreader! I appreciate a little banter now and again and it’s good to know that there are real people behind a corporate exterior. But if you were pitching for business in person, would you go up to the stranger at the end, give them a hug and a kiss and tell them you love them? No? Then why spell it out on the end of an email to someone you’ve never met before – as happened to a couple of my colleagues in the office?
The key for me and the point for companies is that to reach a level of familiarity, you need to build the customer relationship first or it could actually put people off doing business with you. Then again, with the rise in social networking and the way it’s delivered, perhaps we should start to accept that people will now want to get to know us just that little bit more?