Everything Speaks

One of the customer service principles I focus on a lot is the principle that “Everything Speaks.” If you’ve read any of my writings or sat in on one of my presentations, you’ve likely heard me harp on the subject of Everything Speaks. Meaning that every detail of the customer experience either enhances your brand or detracts from your brand. Your brand can refer to your organization’s brand, your department’s brand, or your own personal brand. Everything speaks. 

I’m always looking for examples of this principle in action. I had a recent experience that perfectly highlights what Everything Speaks means.

The fabric liner in my car’s roof had some damage and needed to be replaced. The dealership where I bought the car doesn’t do that type of work and recommended a local company to do it. I have a good relationship with the dealer, so I trusted their recommendation. 

When I arrived at the shop, I was taken aback by the messiness of the reception area. There was a strong sense of disorganization. But what really jumped out was the condition of the chair I sat in as I discussed the repair issue. The chair’s fabric was worn Everything Speaksand torn in spots. 

Keep in mind that this company specializes in fabric repair. So, there was a strong disconnect between the quality of work that was being promised and what I was experiencing real time. Everything Speaks. (I took the photo when the employee went into the shop to get some fabric samples.) 

You might be wondering if I gave up on doing business with the shop or if I went ahead with the repair. Well, I did go ahead with the repair mainly because my car dealership recommended the company and I trust my car dealership. And the shop did a fine job with the work. But here’s the point – I went ahead with the work IN SPITE of what I was experiencing, not because of what I was experiencing. That’s not a very good place for a company to start from. I could have just as easily turned around and looked for another company to do the work. 

On the other hand, the parts and service area of the dealership I mentioned earlier is pristine. It practically screams competence, efficiency, and organization. Your first impression of the place is positive and trust-building. Not a bad impression for a company to make when you’re dropping off a vehicle for a potentially costly repair. Again, Everything Speaks.

One other thought on the subject: There’s also what I call “attitudinal” Everything Speaks. We’ve all talked to a helpline agent who we could tell just by the tone of his or her voice didn’t really want to help us. They just go through the motions, often reading from a script. Everything about their approach says they just want to finish with you and get on to the next call. Everything Speaks and this type of interaction diminishes any trust we might otherwise have had. 

So, what do I recommend? During a team meeting come up with at least ten potential Everything Speaks distracters, physical and attitudinal. You might even walk through your customer areas during this discussion. Then, come up with commitments for each of the potential distracters so that they don’t occur. 

The employees of the repair shop discussed earlier might commit to everyone making sure the reception area reflects the quality of work they do and projects an image of trust.

A helpline’s employees might commit to talking to every caller in a way that says they’re present and eager to help. They could brainstorm ways to project that eagerness. 

Ultimately, when the Everything Speaks philosophy is truly embraced, your brand image benefits, your department’s image benefits, and your own image benefits. What more could you ask for? 

Here’s something to think about: Because Everything Speaks, what are the physical and attitudinal details saying about you and your organization?