What Your Signature Says About You

I’m going to tell you what may sound like a morbid story – – but bear with me: there’s a message here! Years ago, I went to visit my elderly neighbour in hospital. I knew he was unwell, but didn’t realize quite how sick he was. He was asleep when I got there, so I sat down, expecting he might wake up at some point. But within a few minutes I could tell he’d stopped breathing. I checked: no, his chest had stopped rising.

This was a terrible shock: I’d never been with someone when they died. I ran to get a nurse, who came immediately. She took his pulse and without thinking, turned to me and said: ‘He’s expired.” When I looked at her blankly, she then said: “Oh – – I mean, he’s passed away..” I never knew the healthcare profession had another word for “dead”. No surprise, I suppose, as the medical field has a Latin word for everything. Every industry or profession has its own language, we all know that, and as consumers, we get used to being addressed and expected to translate business language. And that’s a problem. If we’re bombarded with jargon, it means companies are thinking more about themselves – than about you. Accounts Receivable [instead of ‘your bill’] and Sales Dept [instead of ‘How Can We Help You?’] are just a couple of examples that come to mind.

So when I got a letter from Paula at Sandpiper, my water heater rental company, I had to do a double-take. Her signature could have read: ‘Director of Sales’ or ‘Purchasing’ or even “Consumer Relations’ [which feels a cliche of an expression these days]. No. She chose to put my comfort as a priority there instead. And on the occasions I’ve needed to call and speak to staff there, I can tell that they are indeed thinking about me as a consumer. My calls are promptly answered and the people at the other end of the phone are even friendly. That means a lot.

So next time you look at your email or billing signature, take a moment to ask what it’s saying about you – and how you treat your clients. We all need to feel comfortable to hear from you.