Thursday, September 13, 2007

False Niceness = Real Rudenss

"Hello! Welcome to Blockbuster!" "Welcome to MOES!" "Thank you for calling Bank of America. Your call is important to us." Please spare me your meaningless platitudes.

We've all heard them. What do they all have in common? A complete lack of sincerity or authenticity. Does the minimum-wage earning person checking DVD's in at Blockbuster sound anything like someone you know who is happy to see you? No? Why not? Because while they might not be unhappy to see you, they are probably more likely apathetic. So if the people are apathetic and we know it is a given that the IVR (irritating voice response) machine is by definition apathetic, then why do they say the things they don't mean? Simple. Because they are forced to by the man.

Some people who are in charge of these brands just don't get it. Sincerity sells. Maybe not as much as sex, but it still sells. Employees at Nordstrom are genuinely happy to serve you and it shows (maybe I'll write a post about why I like Nordstrom). That's part of the reason people actually enjoy shopping there. So what is going through the mind of the marketing and branding executives who make these decisions? In order to figure this out, I have laid out the possible options 1) They think customers will actually fall for the false platitude. i.e., they think the masses are egregiously stupid. 2) They think customers will notice the insincerity and they really don't care how the customers feel when faced with it. 3) They think customers will not even notice the greeting at all and will go on their merry way (more on this later). 4) Some combination of the above.

I loathe all of these possibilities with 1 and 2 leading the pack by a wide margin. Now each of these also has something else in common - they are all actually rude - why? Because they are both insincere and obtrusive in nature.

Back to option 3, where customers don't notice the "greeting". The ironic thing here is that customers who don't notice (or those who choose not to respond) could actually be perceived as the ones who are being rude here because they did not respond to a greeting.

You may notice that I have not called out the famous Wal-Mart greeters. This is not an omission. Wal-Mart greeters get a bad name from all the meaningless (i.e. - devoid of any meaning) fake welcomes we receive every day. Wal-Mart greeters, on the other hand, actually are sincere! They are usually senior citizens who are happy to be there and are happy to interact with people. This is not rude. This is genuine friendliness, which I like. The rest... garbage.


Diana said...

A fresh breeze of northern thinking.

When I first came to the US I was asked by a very southern lady the standard "How are you doing?". Boy wasn't that polite! I felt free to tell them all about my horrible flight, and the Jet Lag, and the arrogant flight attendants, and all... Got the best lifted eyebrow look I've seen yet, and a resounding "Bless your heart!", which I also thought was a good thing.

Five years of getting used to it, I actually respond with a smile and a polite remark back, when I get that in commercial environments. I figure two things will happen. Either the staff person will appreciate it and actually be sincerely nice to the person after me, or they will get annoyed back, which may eventually get them thinking about finding a job they actually like.

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