Companies Need to Lighten Up

Author Date July 17, 2019 Read 5 min
DISCOVER THE SERIOUS IMPACT OF TAKING A MORE CUSTOMER-FOCUSED APPROACH Business is serious. People start companies to make money, to provide for their families, to chase a dream…


Business is serious.

People start companies to make money, to provide for their families, to chase a dream and to make a difference in the world.

Supporting a family, paying bills, planning for retirement – these are all serious things. But the seriousness of business has overtaken a lot of what companies do today. Sometimes, it seems like they are out of touch with their customers.

It’s time to lighten up, companies! Here are three areas where your business could use a relaxed approach.

Lighten Up Your Approach to Marketing

What your company offers may be serious stuff that customers absolutely need, but you don’t have to approach marketing to them in such a formal tone. Some of the most memorable marketing campaigns have utilized humor as the focal point of the content.

Dollar Shave Club is one of the best recent examples, in my opinion. The entire company was launched on a humor-filled ad that bucked the trend of other razor companies’ serious marketing messages that having 16 blades and a cooling strip make a more comfortable shave.

The company’s humorous marketing worked, too. The quick one-minute ad posted on YouTube has more than 26 million views and, after launching the business in 2011 and gaining $1 million in seed funding in 2012, Dollar Shave Club was purchased by Unilever in 2016 for $1 billion in cash.

You may not be as clever or funny as the marketing people at Dollar Shave Club (not many people may be), but this goes to show the power of humor. In fact, people around the world have long touted the serious effect of humor in marketing. The 2013 Nielsen Survey of Trust in Advertising reported that 47 percent of people said humor resonates with them more than any other approach to marketing content.

So take heed and have a little fun with your marketing efforts.

Lighten Up Your Touch with Customer Care

By the late 20th century, businesses around the globe shifted customer care to automated channels and it caused one major unintended consequence — customer care lost its personal touch.

First came the automated attendant, a computer posing as a human ready to be of help. This was followed by the humans on the customer support lines sounding like computers when they finally answered the phone – repeating, line for line, the script given to them:

“Thank you for calling Large Corp. My name is John. All calls may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes. How may I help you today?”

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, that approach to customer care didn’t just remain in the phone channel. It slithered its way into email communications and one-on-one interactions with customers in person.

Providing customer care, support and service are all serious undertakings, of course, but people don’t like to be treated like they aren’t human.

A study conducted by consulting firm Software Advice found that 65 percent of customers prefer support staff at companies to have a casual tone during their interactions. This result was also consistent across all age groups – no matter how old or young the customer.

Despite that, there are times when a more formal tone is what customers desire. According to the study, 78 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t be satisfied if a request they made was denied by a support staff member who used a casual tone. On the flip side, if the request was granted, 65 percent of customers said they’d prefer it to be with a casual tone.

Body language also plays heavily into customer reaction, as not every interaction is done over the phone or through a screen. That’s why it’s important to stress a familiar, informal yet still advisory approach to body language for those customer support staff members who will greet customers in person. Great examples include smiling, open stances, controlled gestures, and modeling the body language of customers.

Lighten Up on the Legalese

Terms and Conditions. EULAs. Business contracts. All are serious. They clearly state in writing what is expected of both the company and the customer, and lay out explicitly what happens in almost every situation imaginable.

Contracts are important because they serve as protection – for both the customer and the business – but they don’t have to be so complicated and formal.

It’s time for companies to lighten up on the legalese. Having contracts written in a convoluted way has no true effect on the validity of the contract.

Contracts are absolutely necessary, but by reducing the legalese and writing more in plain language, you’ll actually build customers’ trust by making them feel like they don’t need a Harvard law education to understand their cellphone contracts.

But it’s not all about the customers. Getting rid of the legalese can have a substantial positive impact on a company’s bottom line in terms of fewer legal challenges and internal legal reviews. In a 2018 article for the Harvard Business Review, Shawn Burton – the former general counsel of GE Aviation’s digital-services unit – provides two real examples.  Each example of legalese had the goal of making the text “understood by a high schooler.”

After the U.S. Congress under then-President Barack Obama passed the Plain Writing Act, one of the president’s administrators at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs said:

“Plain language can make a huge difference,” as it saves money and makes it “far easier for people to understand what they are being asked to do.”

It is also good UX.

Still not convinced? Burton provided a more tangible business case study. In 2008, the Cleveland Clinic decided to simplify its billing statements. The result was it experienced a significant uptick in patient payments, allowing it to collect $1 million per month more than it did before.

These are all prime examples of why your company should lighten up. Be less formal, connect with your customers, lay out in plain language what’s expected of you and them, and you’ll be well on your way to doing more serious business.

As the old business adage goes, “people do business with who they like and are like them.”

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