by Suzie Cheel & Des Walsh
One never knows what one will come across on the morning beach walk. This was arranged so carefully and was such a delight to come upon.
– Des Walsh & Suzie Cheel
I have been in the people business for many decades. First in the hospitality industry and now in the small business technology space. Some of the companies I love are for their ability to make every employee of theirs “human.” I find it odd that I have to use the term “human” to describe living things that are already human. Such is the cost of the pressures of economy, technology and pressures of the world we live in.
We hear that mobile is the next big thing. Of course the effect of it is that a pair of otherwise loving human beings now take walks and instead of holding hands, hold their phone feverishly typing as they walk. Family dinner outings become shorter, with dad’s addiction to checking in to every possible location app and show the virtual world that he is alive and well while kids and spouse lovingly tolerate crazy dad ( Guilty here!)
How does this apply to business?
When I worked for the hotel industry we learned to give preference to the “Human” who was in front of us rather than the one on the phone. Are we now driving away “humans” and making them communicate with us virtually? I don’t know if you agree or not but face to face is still the best way of communication unless you are talking about a couple breaking up.Â Train your employees in thinking of customers as humans and communicating with the same friendliness that they would expect. Assign clear rules to follow when faced with situations where your staff may be faced with a face to face customer versus one on email or the phone.
This is an incident closer to heart when a few months ago my 10 year old niece was flying back from India and was travelling 3 legs of the journey on different airlines. In Bombay she is told by Swiss Airlines that the computer shows that she has already flown the flight which has yet to take off. How ridiculous does this sound? Luckily she was with her parents, but they were forced to buy a ticket for that part of the journey even though they had already paid for it. So in this case this was a total failure of making the situation human.
An experience that was nice was when I was flying back to DC on SouthWest and realized that I had made a mistake and my return flight was to Dulles instead of Baltimore where I had parked my car to take the flight in. Thinking about the horror of trying to get to Baltimore from the Washington Dulles Airport and the time I would waste making the journey, I approached the SouthWest counterÂ and the lady listened to my story, called a supervisor and changed my booking to Baltimore and did not charge me for it. I will always remember SouthWest fondly. I could give you countless examples – the ticket counter at Silja Line in Helsinki where to my horror I had booked a cruise the next day and had no hotel and they changed the booking without any fuss. The lady at the London Eye in the UK who agreed to let us take an earlier ride.
Humans have a good memory for both good and bad experiences. The importantÂ thing to remember for companies when things happen is to “humanize” the situation immediately. Worry about the Human in front of you and how to help them rather than your computer that gives you an impossible answer.
A conversation with a customer should never be carried to an extreme. I fought my insurance company all the way to the State Attorney’s office and I lost. YetÂ I still am a customer and think they provide the best customer service insurance companies can provide. I disagreed on a rate increase that I thought was not justified and the company stood its ground but always kept me in the loop, listened to me patiently looked for other ways to help me reduce my bill. All this comes from a inbuilt spirit within companies to help the customer and not engaging in a conflict that leaves the customer unsatisfied.
As your business grows , think about your customers as members of your friendly neighborhood. Think of them as humans first and not as 140 characters or bytes in an email. Your business will flourish when you “humanize” it.
What do you think? Do you have any tips for businesses to humanize themselves?
Social profiles have gotten a lot of tweaking in the past year.Â Have you kept up with all of the updates?
Today’s the day to roll up your sleeves and get it done.
Here’s a handy cheat sheet:
A few months ago, Twitter started including a photo header at the top of your profile.Â It should be a graphic 1252 pixels wide by 626 pixels tall, maximum size of 5MB.Â You can easily change it by going to your Twitter profile settings page.Â Here are the details straight from Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/articles/127871.
Not to be outdone, LinkedIn now allows you to have a profile header for your company page.Â The graphic should be a .png, .jpg, or .gif no more than 2MB.Â Size recommended is 646 pixels wide by 220 pixels tall or larger (you can crop on the page). Here’s a handy video on setting up a company page: http://youtu.be/WiTQL_M_fv0.
You should already have this one nailed, but just in case…your Facebook cover photo should ideally be 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall, and under 100KB (for fastest load time).Â Here are Facebook’s recommendations: http://www.facebook.com/help/125379114252045/.Â Remember that Facebook frowns on calls to action or overtly promotional content within the cover image.Â It’s intended to be a compelling photo or graphic, not a banner ad.
Your favorite slack-time hangout just put on a business suit. If your business is suited to graphic imagery, or you want to flex your creative juices, you might want to create a business account (or convert your existing personal account, if you’ve been using it to support your business). Learn all of the details from the Pinterest announcement: http://blog.pinterest.com/post/35710687813/new-tools-for-businesses-in-the-pinterest-community.
When is the last time you spiffed up your own blog or home page? Do you have a widget on there from last year’s conference? Take 10 minutes and look at your own site with a newcomer’s eye, or have a friend look — a refresh might end the year on a high note.
I’ll step forward and say “guilty”Â on this one.Â My avatar is from a favorite photo that was taken 7 years ago.Â Ouch.Â It’s time to cowboy up and get a new picture taken.Â How old is your avatar?
If you participate in online communities around the web, you probably have customized forum signatures in some of them. Usually these are appended to the end of your posts, and include a favorite motto, sometimes a link to your site, or your bio information. These can get totally forgotten in the day to day hustle. Take a moment today and fix the broken links, update your job title, or breathe some new life into your forum signatures.
I know, it involves “code” and it seems really tricky (it sortof is).Â Many posts have been written about how to implement the author tag for Google+, but the best one I found (and the one that actually worked for me) was this step-by-step from Social Media Examiner: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/google-author-tags/.Â Do this one today.
If you systematically go through and complete these 8 minor tasks, you’ll get a bounce into the new year with a fresh face to the world.