How to be a human
Yesterday I talked to the reservations manager at a hotel in Freeport, Maine. I had made a non-refundable reservation using Expedia, they already had my money. Then I found out I won't need the reservation. I was screwed. But I still called the hotel and asked, nicely, if there was anything they could do. I restrained myself and didn't lie about funerals, nor did I rail against the system, because I knew I was stuck. I just asked.
The reservations manager explained, nicely, how these reservations work (which I already knew). But I will be going back to Freeport, I have family there. So when she suggested a free night's stay in the future, I was happy. It's not a refund, but I knew I didn't deserve that. And you know, she treated me like a human being, and I did the same to her, and I left a little lighter in the wallet, but happy. And I will be going back to her hotel, and not just for the free night.
I work with a lot of clients. I travel a lot. I collaborate a lot with my coworkers, some more junior than me, some high up in management. I talk to reporters and bloggers and my publisher.
And I get a lot of email. An awful lot. After 13 years as an analyst, a lot of people know my email address, and I’m on many, many marketing mailing lists. I am a target for PR people.
In all these interactions I have observed something. When people treat me like a human and not a “marketing target,” I like that. Not only that, when I make a human connection with somebody, whether it’s the client building a social application strategy or the person checking me in for my flight, it goes better.
When things go wrong, I can nearly always trace it back to somebody not behaving like a human, and not treating me like a human.
I will no longer put up with this. And you, my readers, are going to help me.
Those of you who have read The Cluetrain Manifesto (most people reading this blog, I would guess) will find this theme familiar. I find it a little strange to be reaching this conclusion ten years after they did. Cluetrain may well be right that this is the future of business, but it sure ain’t here yet. Not even close.
It will never be here, because treating people as a mass is more efficient than treating them as humans. Being part of an organization is harder than behaving like a human. And while that isn’t likely to change any time soon, I think some of the most valuable things that a company can do come from being human and talking to people as humans. And some of the most awful things that companies do come from being inhuman to customers.
Now that the humans have blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and discussion forums, the balance may shift a bit.
It’s time to do some lessons in being human.
Consider yourself on notice. To every PR person, every service person, everyone I interact with: I may call out your humanity right here. I will also call out your inhumanity here. I will make every effort to contact you first, to get your point of view, but I will out you.
My life is now an open book. Laugh, suffer, and smile along with me. Argue with me if you want. But treat me like a human. Please.
Look for future posts tagged "How to be a human." Or write your own.