Newsletter #021 • 16 January 2019
Customer Centric
The weekly digest for the customer-obsessed
Dear Earthling,

Five years ago, when I was working in customer support, in Lisbon, I would get thousands of messages and calls every single month. Checking my inbox every morning — Pandora’s Inbox — entailed reading everything from threats to love letters, compliments to complaints.

Once I got to the office, I just wanted to get right to it. Between sips of coffee, I would reply to every support ticket and customer call the best I could, but often felt I’d failed. 

Since then, I’ve swapped customer support for marketing, coffee for tea (I fear my nutcake-with-a-teapot colleague is making me into a bit of an infusion snob), and customer service lumbers on without me. 

Lumbering on in mostly the same way: the constant crossfire of calls and emails between agents and angry customers is just as difficult now as it was five years ago. 

What if you say the wrong thing and trigger a complaint? Are you using the right words to assuage your customers’ concerns? 

A recent article in The Economist, on using language to reduce tension, helps us start answering those questions. As the author puts it: “In matters of conflict, as in so many other areas of life, it turns out that presentation is everything.” 

Give it a read and let me know what you think 😊

Happy readings!


🔖  This week's top picks 
🗣️ How to change emotions with a word
Diplomats the world over know that a well-chosen turn of phrase can make or break a negotiation. But the psychological effects of different grammatical structures have not been investigated as thoroughly as they might have been.

A study just published in Psychological Science has thrown some light on the matter and finally discovered a good way to use language to reduce tension. 
📜 From Abacus to Zendesk: Customer Service through the ages
Looking back 4000 years, it’s reasonable to think that, as long as there have been customers, there’s been customer service. Which essentially means people have been complaining for a very long time.
📣 ‘In its infancy’: Why voice-assisted purchasing isn’t likely to go mainstream in 2019
While 41 percent of U.S. consumers own a smart speaker, few are doing their shopping on Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices. And unless customers start making voice purchases in huge numbers, brand marketers will be waiting in the wings until user adoption inches up.
😃 The revolution will be emojified: striving for truly representative emoji
In a turn of events that few could have predicted ten or twenty years ago, people are, for better or for worse, extremely passionate about their emoji. Proposals for new emoji have attracted both widespread controversy and near-unanimous praise, covering everything under the sun, from dumplings, to guns, to interracial couples, to anatomically inaccurate ants. Chances are, whatever you’re thinking of, there’s an emojo for it — or at least a lobbyist ready to do battle in its name.
🤖 Gradually, then suddenly
There’s a passage in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises in which a character named Mike is asked how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually, then suddenly.” Technological change happens in much the same way. Small changes accumulate, and suddenly the world is a different place.
💡 Speaking words of wisdom

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.     

— Dorothy Nevill
Pssst, tweet me.
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