Let's Focus on the People
It’s not just about fixing issues– you can’t approach problems as they’re problems but rather opportunities to build relationships. Those five or ten minutes you’re interacting one-on-one is about building trust. It’s about being genuine and showing them you care, it’s about seeing both sides of the story and understanding the best way to share a solution. The secret: caring about the little guys too.
Customer service and community building are two things that shouldn’t sway based on someone’s job title. It’s focused on people. Put a mask on whoever’s sitting across the table and suddenly everyone’s issue pulls the same weight. The bigger your product or company becomes, the more that warm personal touch needs to be emphasised.
Two emails are sitting in your inbox: Coca-Cola and Jim. Immediately you prioritize them, yet both have similar questions about connecting with your brand. Jim (because, who’s Jim?) gets a three minute brainstorm session, mapping pro’s and con’s, then a rejection email thanking him “for his interest in the brand” — while the rest of the afternoon is dedicated to Coke.
Boil it down; at the end of the day they’re both people. Does this outreach intern from Coke have enough clout within the company to justify the powerpoint response you emailed back? Maybe this opportunity with Jim could pan out with great long-term success. The truth is, you don’t know, and won’t until Coke doesn’t follow up, and Jim & Pepsi are running a great new campaign.
Now that’s an extreme case with a pessimistic bias, and I’m definitely not saying it’s wrong to prioritize. What I am saying is everyone (both Coke & Jim) deserve and demand your best powerpoint response. Granted it takes a little more time and effort, but nothing comes easy.
I’ve worked with people throughout my life — and I’ve learned you can’t treat them like strangers or money; they’re not rational, loyal, or predictable. When you’re building a community you can’t treat your base as an anonymous group of users. These people are all different with unique hobbies, interests and expectations. Their opinion about what we do, how we do it, and what we stand for is gold.
As community builders and cultivators we need to take care of these people, because they’re why we’re working. They’re why we make this product, and they’re the ones that’ll take care of us. Your ‘return on investment’ (or genuine effort and ability to connect with someone) is rewarded by a positive, fulfilling experience. By someone leaving and thinking:
They didn’t just fix my problem, they reminded me why I called in the first place.
Although that’s not something we can monetise, it’s something that people are looking for. The internet has saturated every market; so much so, that if SoundCloud isn’t loading quick enough I’ll head over to Spotify. But if Chris from SoundCloud actually responded to my tweet last Tuesday, I’ll try reloading the page again.
That fulfillment carries over one step further. Word of mouth is the oldest, yet most powerful and overlooked (in my opinion) form of advertising. If consumer experience drives your business plan it’ll yield astronomical results. Professors and experts preach about it, but when times get tough and budgets get cut, it’s the first thing we forget! Consider this: we’ve all seen the amazing reach of a viral post– people sharing videos, challenges, ideas and opinions about a single subject. But what is it really?… word of mouth. It’s just people telling their friends about something interesting (we’ve taken out the human-factor and now replaced it with Twitter and Facebook).
Focusing on the people, on all the people and not just the subjectively important ones.
Give advice to strangers like you’re old friends meeting for coffee. Don’t let the conversation change when you put a desk, phone, and company name between the two- in fact, that’s something I’d like to fix.