Saturday, February 12, 2011

Watch Your Language, Please!

An old saying goes: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me".  From my experience, nothing is farther from the truth.  While physical wounds heal and are long forgotten, ill chosen words cut deep, with some such inflicted wounds never to heal.

I have found over the years that using positive words doesn't cost any more.  And using negative words doesn't cost any less.  Yet the impact each has, positive or negative, is huge.  Let's look at a business example.

In working with an organization some years back, a team spent some time reviewing various templates used in customer communications.  The wording in one of them really jumped out, worded roughly as follows (and the other templates weren't much different in tone):

ABC Manufacturing has reviewed your request and has determined that it does not meet our strategy.  Therefore we will not consider this request now, nor in the future.  We are closing out the request.  (Name of the client and wording have been changed/modified while preserving the essence.)

I don't know what your reaction was reading this but for me it felt like a door being slammed in my face.  It pained me just reading it - and it was not even a response to my request.  I can only imagine what the clients must have felt, when receiving such a response, and the (adverse) impact that must have had on the customer relationships and the business.

I am wondering if there would be another way to word this. For example, something like this:  "Hello , thank you for your request.  I have reviewed your request and unfortunately at this point in time, it does not fit the product strategy and therefore I am unable to address it through our regular support mechanism.  Having said that, I like to suggest our having a conversation so we can better understand what it is you're trying to achieve and then perhaps there may be another way we can help you achieve your desired outcomes.  If you agree, please advise when would be a convenient time for us to speak.  I'll wait to hear from you then.  Thank you kindly."

While this suggested reply is wordier and takes few more moments to write, don't you think it's much warmer, invites dialogue and leaves room for exploration and future opportunities as well as contributes to stronger relationship formation?

If you agree with the message of this post, perhaps it may be worthwhile for you and your team to review your own communications that take place with your customers, internal and external, and identifying ways they can be made more customer friendly, so they lead to more positive outcomes, for you and your clients?  In my experience, this is one of the ways to have a huge positive impact on your relationships and your bottom line, without spending a single additional penny.

What are your thoughts and experiences in this regards?  I would love to hear from you.  Won't you please take a few moments to respond?  Thank you so kindly in advance for your reading this post and for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts and experiences. - Vinay


Joelsef said...

I totally agree. People often do not realize how their communications--verbal or written--comes off to others. Sometimes they don't care, but often it's because they just don't think about it.

Being nice (and meaning it) can go a long way.

However, what's worse is being nice but faking it badly. I'm not sure what I'd prefer--the emotionless response or an obviously fake "positive" response.

Vinay Kumar said...

I say always be genuine and that a function of one's inner being. If one really cares about others, then genuiness will come through loud and clear.

Patti said...

And what does one do if they genuinely care, try really hard to show it but are met with constant belittlement?

Vinay Kumar said...


Only actions are in our hands, not the results. If you genuinely care, then just keep on caring as best as you can and leave the rest to Him.