Lifestyle & Culture

Communication! Do You Hear Me? Hello?

August 29, 2019

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iStock photo illustration.

HAVE YOU EVER ordered anything from Wayfair, the giant online home-furnishings retailer? You’d probably remember if you had.

First, after spending untold minutes or even hours combing through as many items as you can, short of causing your eyes to bleed, you order something. Then you get an email.

Wayfair is so happy it can barely contain itself: Thanks for your Wayfair order! We love what you chose! See inside for details. . . .

Details of the order I placed two minutes before? My short-term memory isn’t that bad.

Then the next day, more exclamation points:

Your Wayfair package has shipped! The Jetta 6 Drawer Accent Chest is on its way! Track your package and view your order details. . . . Again with the details.

The next email arrives on my computer before the package hits my door (I live in a big building). And, by golly, more exclamation points:

Your Wayfair items were delivered. Woohoo! Your order has arrived! 

That’s a lot of enthusiasm for a little chest of drawers that will live in the guest room just in case a guest wants to plop a suitcase down on something flat. (I doubt overnight guests are going to be filling the drawers with their clothes.)

A couple of these missives were also sent as text messages (fewer exclamation points).

Wayfair has been excited about my household purchases before: In June, We love the Scale you chose! Before that, We love the Fireplace you chose! (They must be German, capitalizing their nouns.)

Of course Wayfair isn’t the only business out there that is excited to work with me. Seamless, the restaurant delivery service, told me only this morning, Just in: new restaurants! That was the same message they sent me last Saturday (but listing different restaurants). And that was only a day after: Food recommendations for you.

At Honest Paws, purveyor of CBD oil and treats for dogs and cats, Customer Experience Representative Neeah welcomed me last Saturday, then the same day thanked me for my purchase and said they were getting [it] ready to be shipped (which pretty much entailed putting a bottle in a box), then on Monday said (Great!) it was about to ship. On Tuesday, Neeah stopped by my Inbox just to say hello (Hello again! I hope you and your cute pet [see how personal that is?] are having a great day.)

So much communication! So little to say! And always, naturally, sell, sell, sell!

Then on Wednesday, big excitement: Hi Nancy, Great! #HP64232 is on its way to its destination (presumably my home). And five hours later, an offer to take 15% off my first order (which, of course, I had placed four days earlier, but it’s the thought that counts, right?).

My purchase arrived on Thursday (Hi Nancy, Great!), and when I couldn’t get the little bottle open, I met another Customer Experience specialist, Amy T., who, bless her heart, ordered me another bottle in case I broke this one while trying to open it (I didn’t).

Some companies don’t seem to believe in oversharing. Verizon is one. They will tell you all sorts of stuff as long as you don’t ask them IRL, which in their case means on the phone. On their site, 17 screens in (okay, I exaggerate, but not by much), you find a phone number and then . . . you wait because of “an unusually large call volume” (translation: We don’t hire enough staff and shuttle them from call to call without a break). Verizon does believe in some communication. While you’re waiting, a recorded voice purrs into the receiver to say, We’re sorry. All of our representatives are still busy. You will hear music until your call is answered. Thank you for your patience.

Maybe 12 bars of music do in fact play, but they keep getting interrupted by the recorded voice saying you will hear music while you wait (except when you don’t).

I realize these are two fundamentally different types of communication. The latter, shared by other utility-type companies (talking about you, AT&T Mobility), comes under the heading of “You’re our customer now and what can you do about it if you can’t even reach someone to cancel your service.”

I consider the former a version of “top of mind marketing.” Technically, top-of-mind refers to the brand names that immediately come to mind when thinking of a particular consumer item. But these constant shout-outs from companies with which I have a minimal relationship seem to have that awareness as a goal. And are as annoying as they are disingenuous.

The first mass email was sent out in 1978 by Digital Equipment Corporation. Things have been going downhill ever since.

Nancy McKeon



3 thoughts on “Communication! Do You Hear Me? Hello?

  1. Nancy G says:

    So true. And SO annoying!

  2. Ann says:

    I appreciate companies that respond to new orders with an email titled: Thank you for your order! Some don’t say thanks, believe it or not. In my mind I give them a demerit and am less likely to order again.

    So true about utility companies and the endless waits. And what’s with the on-hold music that often sounds like it’s being played underwater?

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      I agree–it’s reassuring to get an email confirmation after ordering something. It’s a lot of the follow-up that makes me crazy (okay, I already was…). About that underwater music: I didn’t hear enough of the Verizon music to even form an opinion; it kept getting interrupted!

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