Aqueous Digital

Why the tone of your message means more than the content

We are all getting emails in the inbox currently that talk about COVID-19. Some are from firms we haven’t dealt with for years and in some cases, if you are like me, you will be wondering where they got your email address from as you have no recollection of ever dealing with them.

There is a common theme with these emails; they want to tell you about how COVID-19 is affecting their business.

That’s fine, but there’s a right and wrong way of doing this.

As some of you may remember from my recent video, it’s about putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and thinking about what message they would like to hear. Remembering of course, the context which is half the world is either in, or going into, lockdown and business people are worried about their survival.

Given this context, we should be mindful that the last thing on most people’s mind is how your business is doing, What’s important to them is how their business is doing.

As an example, here’s an excerpt of an email I received recently;

Hi Jonathan,

We would like to reassure all customers that we have comprehensive systems in place to provide service continuity at all times, including to manage the potential effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Immediately, you can imagine how this makes the reader feel. Personally, I don’t actually care about your business continuity; that’s their issue, not mine. They go on;

We regularly review all business operations from supply chain, IT to personnel and ensure robust contingency measures are in place to avoid any interruption to service. This has included testing our systems to evaluate potential risk and impact to our people.

Wonderful. Again this is an internal issue and not one that really concerns me right now

We can confirm there are no known impacts to our systems. Our software and the databases they rely on are cloud-based, meaning they can be accessed securely from remote locations. Our team can also access and provide customer and maintenance support remotely, while a system of on-call rotations ensures support will be sustained.

Again, some great news about their business but honestly, why would I care?

They go on to reassure that they are there to support me and I can get in touch if I need to.

So, what’s wrong with this?

Well, the message is fine, reassuring customers that their systems and processes are robust and if we need to use them it will be business as usual. Comforting to know in the current circumstances and particularly if I am planning to use their services over the coming weeks.

But the focus is the wrong way round. The focus is on them and what they are doing and not on me and how I might be feeling and thinking.

The next obvious question, therefore, is how would you improve this?

Sure, they need to let people know they are open for business but it’s easy to pivot this message to make it more inclusive.

Just the opening sentence “We would like to reassure all customers that we have comprehensive systems in place to provide service continuity at all times” could be rewritten to say

“We appreciate that you may be experiencing a challenging and difficult time in your business, so we wanted to let you know that we are here to support you should you need us.

Our service continues to operate as normal and we have systems in place to provide service continuity to you at all times”

It’s a subtle change, but an important one.

All of a sudden I feel like this is about me, not them and frankly, I’m on board as they are trying to help me and my business.

All of which brings us to the bottom line and that is

Think like your customers, not like a business owner.

We are all concerned about the future, about how we can survive this crisis and how business might look when we emerge on the other side, but right now we are all in this together.

Treat your customers like they were your family or best friend. Be there for them now and they will repay your kindness when we all emerge from this.

More Articles