I received another one just this morning, and you may have also. It’s an email from a company that just loves its Customers, but implores them to not write back. So emphatic are they about how important their Customers are to them that they explicitly go out of their way to forestall communications.
Of course, I’m talking about the un-monitored email box.
“Do not reply to this message. Replies to this message are routed to an unmonitored mailbox.” That’s word-for-word the quote on an email from quite possibly one of the most celebrated Customer-centric brands you’ve ever heard of. Yep, that one.
“Unmonitored.” “Do not reply.”
“Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Now, it’s certainly important for a large corporation to develop processes and procedures in order to most efficiently handle the inevitable communication in which it engages with its Customers. Ironically, the bigger (thanks to great Customer experiences and retention) a brand is, the more Customers they have, the more work it is to handle the volume of correspondence. Okay, I get it.
Yet, nothing more efficiently and effectively gives the impression that you don’t care about your Customers than…literally telling them that you’re not interested in hearing from them. If you’ve been frustrated in the past that your complaints or suggestions as a Customer go unheard or unheeded, you may already have the feeling that they’re not listening—even though, of course, all over their branding, on their invitations to participate in surveys, even on the side-bar of their website, they’ll say “We’re listening.” Sure, you’re “listening” but you’re not hearing anything I’m saying…all my communications with you seem to be shouted into the ether. My recommendations and concerns seem to go into a big hole in the ground.
Oh, but now you’re confirming just that…that there is a big hole in the ground? Unmonitored? Don’t write us here. There’s nothing more unwelcoming.
I had a mentor early on in my consulting career (back when I was spending more time in front of classes and seminars all day teaching, and less time sleeves-rolled-up working on building things with my clients) who once gave me a great tip in setting the right tone at the beginning of a day’s worth of facilitation or instruction: Always frame your rules in a positive light. For example, instead of imploring people not to use check their phones during the sessions, invite them to catch up with email and phone calls during the breaks. Instead of asking them not to return late from those breaks, encourage them to get back on time. Even your choice of words matters…choose to say, “I invite you to pose questions at the end of the presentation,” instead of “please hold your questions.” Or vice-versa, “please feel free to stop me if you have questions,” versus “don’t hold your questions till the end.” Even the subtlety of that last one is curious: either way, you’re explaining a policy that’s inviting your audience to interrupt you, which is generous in and of itself; but you can make it even more so by choosing your words in a positive way.
These corporations who send out these unmonitored mailbox emails surely have some way of communicating with their Customers. It’s just that this particular inbox isn’t their preferred method. But why not just say that? Why unnecessarily alienate your Customers by explicitly telling them not to contact you? Especially when you’re not inviting them to reach you otherwise?
The irony is (and I know this from actual experience), most big corporations actually do have a small cadre of support folks whose only job is indeed to monitor the “unmonitored” inbox after all (even though they tell their Customers they’re not doing so) and route the messages to the appropriate destinations. Isn’t that funny? When you think about it, the message itself (‘don’t write to us here, we’re not listening to you’) unnecessarily gives the impression that your company doesn’t care when in fact, it does! It cares enough to employ people to handle the messages you’re asking folks not to send. What is this? Playing hard-to-get? Are you a second-grader pulling ponytails of the cute girl on whom you have a hidden crush? Why deliberately give the impression you’re alienating your Customers when you actually aren’t? Talk about an own-goal.
Here’s a thought: Don’t do that. Always monitor that mailbox. Always allow your Customers to hit “Reply” to reach you. I know some companies do this already…it’s a great tool for adding details about an open issue or following the progress of a solution on an open ticket.
Short of that, how about taking that positive angle? Tell your Customers how to communicate with you. Try something like this: “To communicate with us or respond to this message, please click here:” You’re surely just trying to guide your Customers to your preferred channel (re-read that: your preferred channel…you may have convinced yourself that this is best for your Customers—you may even be right about that—but in the end, let’s at least be honest that this is what’s going on, you’re telling them what to do; whole ’nother topic for another day), at least don’t leave them just hanging there wondering how to reach you. Just saying “don’t do it here” isn’t sufficient.