how to talk to people

Corporate writing has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.

When you think of innocent smoothies or Pret, and you think happy, friendly, quirky. All of their writing upholds their brand values, and they take every opportunity to help you to like them, whether it be a label or a napkin.

Even more traditional businesses like banks are getting in on the feel-good action. Rather than being consumers or customers or target markets, we're being treated like people. People who have good days and bad days, people who get flat tires, forget their umbrellas, or just get hangry.

So this is all great, until you have an interaction with a big organisation who seem to be stuck back a few decades. Suddenly being treated like a reference number can be a bit of a jolt.

Recently I needed to contact SouthWest Trains customer service department. I won't bore you with the details of the thing, as I have a tendency to rant about their archaic paper system and general obstinate policies surrounding replacement rail cards. 

I emailed customer service and had to wait for a month before receiving a reply. Their response was incredible; not only is the text overly formal and, for the most part, copied and pasted from a customer service manual, but the basic subtext is 'not our problem, sucker'. You don't need to read it, as it drones on and on. 

However compare it to the email on the right. 

Earlier this year, my bank card expired and my new one didn't arrive in time. I was overseas and all my direct debits were declining, including my Spotify account. I contacted their customer service team, and received a response the very same day.

A transcript of this email is pasted below.


Banks eh?  Silly sausages don't know what they're doing sometimes do they?

Anyway, I've just added a free 1 month extension to your subscription.  This should give the card plenty of time to arrive. :-)

Whilst in New Zealand, watch out for Hobbits.  Especially that Samwise Gamgee, he's a shady looking character.

Have a great time and let me know if you need anything further.

Best Wishes,
Adam Curran
Spotify Customer Service

Not only did Spotify treat me like an actual person (imagine!) but they solved the problem straight away, and though I liked their product before, I am now their number one brand ambassador. 

SouthWest Trains - not only did you not even attempt to help me, you gleefully charge me £3,360 a year for a rubbish service.

Beware as I am now your number one enemy. I bad mouth you to everyone*.



*By everyone, that's my mum and this blog, but other people have similar sentiments