Friday, 10 September 2010

The Resonance of Writing

I was discussing with a colleague the other morning how we like to make complaints when we have received bad service. Not in a - I want to moan about everything - kind of way, but when you have fair reason to discuss the poor (or lack of) service you have received.

When you open your wallet, be it to buy a cinema ticket, a pair of shoes or a slap up dinner, your money is not purely covering the cost of the consumable item. You are paying for the service as well. We are pretty well accustomed to returning faulty goods, as they are ultimately NOT what you have paid for. So why should the service you receive be treated any differently? You ARE paying for it!

We were talking about the most effective way of lodging a complaint, and were both in agreement that a letter in writing (hand writing that is) holds an air of authority that an email or phone call cannot match. It got me thinking about why...

We have such easy access to online mediums of communication today; smartphones, e-mail, the web, social media, so getting in touch with those you wish to discuss disservice with is very simple. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that electronic complaints hold no resonance - the weight of your matter is undermined by the efforts of your submission. How many times have you used an online email feature or used a customer services email and got a response? Personally my ranking would be 0. I manage my company's web comment system, and make a point of replying to each and every message, but I am very aware thy this is not the case in the most place.

E-communications, unless between friends, family and acquaintances are impersonal and more-so unfamiliar, and hence anonymous. Regardless of the tone, content or relevance, you can discard digital communications in an instant, with the age old fail-safe of 'I never received it' - placing false blame on the very technology that delivered the complaint. Genius.

So putting the digital option aside, what else are you left with? If you are lucky enough to find a phone number these days, AND actually get through to a human being, there is no saying that the people you speak to will a) understand your queries, b) be able to aptly deal with them, or c) know who to transfer you to in order to speak to the right person. Assuming by a stroke of luck you do get through - I can pretty much guarantee said individual is well versed in placating your concerns in a wonderful customer service/sales fashion. Always an excuse, always a get out of jail free card. Even if you talk to someone truly genuine, the argument still remains that you are anonymous, and clearly have a distance between you that ultimately poses no threat to the operatives supposedly dealing with your issue. At the end of the day, what can you really do from over the phone? Honest answer: Not a lot.

So we then arrive back at the long forgotten art of finding a piece of paper, a pen, an address, and constructing a well rounded, thorough and poignant address of dissatisfaction.  The effort involved in doing so far outweighs any of the other communications mentioned here, not least that it then requires a trip to the post office and a price paid to deliver that message. Perhaps this goes some way to emphasising the grounds of your complaint.

A letter is also tangible. You can hold it, smell it, taste it (if you were so inclined), and the writing on the letter is like your fingerprint - it is 100% unique to you. You have in effect delivered a small piece of your identity in a letter, the same way that your signature holds the authority of your acceptance, seal of approval and unique confirmation of your physical self.

Now this isn't to say that a letter cannot be discarded in the same way that an email or a text can, but it still sits in your bin/in tray/recycling box. It's still there. Even if you shred the damn thing it still exists as a physical entity. A letter hence has a permanence unchallenged by any other form of communication.

If you buy a house, your correspondence is legally bound to be in written form between sellers, solicitors and financiers. Open a bank account, you need written justification of your address. Leave the country and you'll need a physical passport. In matters of importance - only a physical letter/document will do.

As a recent purchaser of a flat, I'm all too familiar with the letter-only exchange. It's archaic, frustratingly slow, and highly prone to error, yet it's still the legal practice and only accepted form of corresponding.

In an age where our world is turning digital on every level, I find it fascinating that the written word is still the most revered form of corresponding. You may well choose to interact online with brands, businesses and services, but it would appear that there is still a superficial air to the quality of that interaction.

That's not to say you shouldn't or indeed can't continue to do so, but don't forget where the art of these interactions are born from. In the same way we should respect our elders, you should still respect the origins of the power of communication... When such needs should arise.

No comments:

Post a Comment