Monday, April 30, 2012

The First 7 Words, Always

Hello Reader, I hope all is well! :D

For the last 5 years of my life every time I have created a new email I have started it with that or some type of custom greeting. I literally mean every (E-V-E-R-Y) time, it doesn't matter who you are, a prospect, a customer, a co-worker, a friend or even a family member. It doesn't even matter if you are sitting right next to me and saying "send me that"... I would still start the email with a greeting. I have even been able to convince my Team Members to add start with a greeting idea to our Corporate Guidance. "Always start emails and chats with a greeting".

When I tell people they should always (A-L-W-A-Y-S) start new emails with a greeting, especially the professionals that deal with a lot of emails on a daily basis, there is often a very negative reaction. Some comeback of "do you know how many email I create daily" or "Everyone? My friends and co-workers wouldn't want a greeting from me". We are so caught up in the optimization of time... that we convinced ourselves that it is the only thing that matters. My best rebuttal and one that is very effective is "How to start emails that go to customers"? This though challenges most to a moment of silence and that look of, “I may need to rethink this”. I always say that your Team Members are your customers also, why treat them any different. One of our other Corporate Guidance's is "Your Team Members are your first customers". :D

So why do this? Why start emails with a greeting? Well, let's take some examples... I do a pretty good job with greetings, but my Co-CTO Bob, has really mastered it to a whole new level. Here are a couple of Bob's greetings:

"Good morning, I hope your day has started off well...mine started with a short 2 mile run :)"

"Hello everyone, Are you all ready for the New Year? I haven't made any resolutions yet and am not going to! :P"

“Hi John, I trust your day is going well. My son's team lost their game last night...horribly bad too."

The truth of the matter is the person reading your email will be reading someone else email right before it and you have no idea what state of mind or emotion that previous email will leave the person in. If you have just the slightest opportunity to positively affect someone, to stack the deck in your favor or to just feel good about yourself... Aren’t the 7 words and 3 seconds worth it?

As in most things in my life... when something works for me I take it to an extreme level. I get this from Extreme Programming (XP) which says "If it works well, do it all the time". So, I have taken this same thought of greetings to Chat and Instant Messaging. Every (E-V-E-R-Y) time I start a new chat or engage with one, I start with "Hi <name>, How are you"? Yes!... even in times of stress and very high importance. This is also interesting, due to the way people typically interact with chat. Chats typically start with "Did that code fix get deployed" or "did you call Joey", something very direct and transactional. When my response is "Hi <name>, how are you?", you do get a moment where most people start to understand... Ahhh, I get it, we are all people that actually might care about each other beyond just getting things done. I do occasionally get an interesting response from someone that is frustrated or is still missing the bigger picture. "John... you don't have to ask me how I am doing every time we chat". But that is where they are wrong... I do, we all do and in this age of more electronic interaction then actual personal interaction the greeting and anything that leads to better human connectivity is at a premium that pays high dividends.

Of course I have taken this to a personal interaction level with those quick visits while passing each other in the hall called "drive by's". I shift the conversation for a moment to "Hi <name>, How are you"? People seem to gets these moments pretty well and you do have a deeper knowledge of the persons state due to body language and tone, allowing you to customize these greetings appropriately. But these greetings are just as important and still surprise people at times.

Some of you might read this and come to think how fake! You shouldn't need rules for this stuff and if it doesn't come naturally then it means is for not. The funny thing is... that after a while of just going through the motions it does actually become part of you... and believe it or not you do start to become genially interested in people and how they are truly (T-R-U-L-Y) doing. And in the end this doesn't just lead to better business but much, much more!

So I ask... are you saving 3 seconds per email or treating everyone (E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E) like a customer? :D