I’ve grown to loath the term ‘we’ when people are selling me things or communicating about their company. It feels like a wall between me and the company’s accountability.
One of my first jobs after leaving uni was working for a large multinational shipping company. It is here I learnt e-mail and sales etiquette. It wasn’t formally taught to me but I followed the tone and ethos of those above me within the organisation. A theme in almost anything that was said to staff or customers was the word ‘we’.
I never stopped to think about who ‘we’ actually was, I simply assumed it was the company as a whole. So I began to use the term as well. When I would go out to visit potential customers I would promise them services by opening with the word ‘we’.
In my e-mails I would apologise for errors by typing ‘we would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused’. When talking to staff I would issue directive by stating ‘we no longer want our staff to execute this process in this manner’
It’s taken me years to learn this lesson but business and your interaction with customers and staff should be personal.
Staff need to know who requires the changes and who they’re accountable to. I now issue directives more in this manner: “I need this to happen by close of business today, can you do this for me?”
When I apologise to a customer I will most often do it over the phone or face to face and avoid email, I take full responsibility and never hide behind the curtain of a company or my staff as a whole. “ I am so sorry this incident has occurred, and I would like to extend my personal apology for the mishap, I would like to offer the following solution in recompense for this error’.
This so often leads to a grateful and loyal customer from there on.
The message I am trying to put forward is that we all need to become responsible and staff also need to be empowered enough to be able to take full responsibility in the eye of the customer. Even in sales, a sales promise is so much more valuable when it’s made by the individual and not the company. “I will personally ensure that we meet the promises I’m setting out for you today”
So let’s humanise things again, and who knows we might set a new standard for larger companies who hide behind their corporate veil.