Three Words: Emphasize the Individual

This advice cuts both ways, since it involves treating your customers as the individuals they are at all times and acting as an individual yourself whenever you’re communicating with them.

“But I am an individual,” you may think, “so how could I do otherwise?”

Simple. People all too often feel that they need to look corporate, appear bigger than they are, or give the impression of a large staff when no such staff exists.

Get over it.

People (your customers) like to interact with other people (you), not random corporate droids.

Your customers don’t have to be your best friends, but treat them like acquaintances (which they are) at the least.

To do this, you can reply to all of your email, answer your phone rather than sending everyone to voicemail, make sure your voicemail reflects you and not your company for those who do get it, and always write in the first person, avoiding passive constructions whenever possible. For example, in a customer newsletter, write

“I strongly recommend you call me to have your heating system checked at least once each year.” instead of “It is strongly recommended that everyone have their heating system checked each year.”

Your business is about you – why pretend that any unnamed monkey could do it?

Adam C. Engst is the publisher of TidBITS, one of the oldest Internet newsletters. He has written numerous Internet books, including the best-selling Internet Starter Kit series, and many articles for leading magazines. His innovations include the creation of the first advertising program to support an Internet publication in 1992 and the first flat-rate accounts for graphical Internet access in 1993. In the annual MDJ Power 25 survey of industry insiders, he ranked as the second (2000) and third (2001) most influential person in the Macintosh industry, and he was named one of MacDirectory’s top ten visionaries.