You say To-Mar-To, I say To-May-To: How to speak English and baffle your customers

Last week it was reported that pre-filled opt-in website boxes are being banned in Insurance; a great move. David Leen discusses the way in which customers are being baffled by small print and opt-in boxes.

I read last week the news about pre-filled opt-in website boxes being banned in Insurance; this feels a wonderful move. This, combined with the news last month that I tweeted about a large insurer putting your previous premium on your new quote, felt like the world is moving in the right direction.

So I thought, no more double-negative statements – “Untick this box if you don’t want to not receive no products and services information from carefully selected partners” It gave me a lift for the rest of the morning. No signing up to stuff you didn’t want by clever wordology, treating customers like imbeciles. The company is hoping you fail to notice the small print; how does this sit with today’s more customer-focussed world? It sits very badly.

I bought some trousers on Sunday night. I got to the end of the form, unticked the box once I had unravelled the conundrum, hit return and hey presto, the box reticked. Arghhh!!!!

I kept thinking why would a firm do this to their customers? They wouldn’t want to surely? I suspect because they don’t really know. There was a show on tv a few years back where bosses would go back to the ‘shopfloor’ and see what was really going on in their firm. It always ended with some Road to Damascus series of events and a hang-dog expression from the boss where he or she would commit to change things, and I suspect they did. I remember one programme where someone got a massive promotion because they spoke the truth to the leader, although they didn’t realise they were the boss.

A great article by Craig Buckler summarises what firms should do brilliantly;

  • Use clear and concise language
  • Give people the best price
  • Inform them about options but don’t assume they’re required
  • Provide opt-out information for those who choose to opt-in

Craig calls this current approach deceitful marketing; it’s strong language, but regrettably accurate.

I mentioned this to a friend, expecting a positive response like me, but no he asked me a question, do you mean checklists or tickboxes? Erm…..

He said, tickbox bad, checklist good. I said that Ken Clarke, the stalwart MP had condemned tickbox culture recently as government offices spend too much time doing admin and less time on their day job.

My friend said that checklists are wonderful things that drive, support and guide people to do the right things – Doctors, Pilots, Scientists live and die by checklists to avoid errors, ask the right questions to give the right solutions, save lives and raise the bar.

So I am now better educated;

Tickbox culture – bureaucracy, mis-leading, burdensome, irrelevant
Checklist culture – quick, smart, innovative, genius

I say To-Mar-To.

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