Marketing guru Seth Godin usually offers interesting insights into human nature, which is a worthwhile thing for people whose job it is to persuade folks to heed. But sometimes, his insights produce that gag reflex, as a little vomit finds its way upward. This was one of those times:
We know that your customers will put up with imperfect, but one thing that they’d like in return is for you to care.
Marketers keep making big promises, and organizations struggle to keep those promises. Sooner or later, it leads to a situation where the broken promise arrives on the customer’s lap.
In that moment, what the customer wants most is someone to care.
Because what people really want is the deepest expressions of concern by the most talented customer support representatives in all of Manilla and Bangalore. At least that’s been the marketing mantra. Not that people want their problems solved. Not that people want the stuff they buy to work. Not that people want the grand promises met. They want some faceless person to apologize for the “inconvenience.”
But that’s just reading off a script to feign giving a damn. What about the poor CSR who has to put on an act for the idiot customers who bother them by calling with their petty concerns?
It’s a mistake to believe that you actually have to care the way the customer cares, and that anything less means you shouldn’t even try. In fact, professionals do emotional labor all the time. They present the best version of their professional self they are capable of.
And there are the new magic words, “emotional labor.” In the Age of Emotion, feelz are now an independent form of human capital. It’s so exhausting. But Godin takes it a step further, as the brutally hard work of feelz can be too much for some, so just fake it, like “professionals.”
Lawyer: The jury felt just awful about the case, about the suffering you must be going through.
Defendant: They convicted me! What the fuck are you talking about?
Lawyer: But they felt really, really bad about it. They realize how hard your life must have been, vulnerable and marginalized, suffering the degradation of systemic discrimination.
Defendant: But they convicted me?
Lawyer: And I feel really awful about that. Believe me that I understand what you’ve been through, the trauma you’ve suffered.
Defendant: But they convicted me. I’m going to prison for the rest of my life.
Lawyer: I know, I know. It’s so horrifying. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
Defendant: Oh, oh. Now I feel better.
Is that how it works, Seth?