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If you’ve ever wondered whether automation of some content, of some customer experiences (not all, obviously) is a bad thing or impacts your brand negatively, one answer can be found in pick up groups, or pugs, in World of Warcraft. These are randomly assembled groups of 5 or 25 people who are given the task of clearing a dungeon or raid. Pugs are notorious for bad manners, inconsiderate people, and foolish behavior, but they’re also a necessary part of the Warcraft experience if you don’t belong to an aggressive raiding guild, since they’re the only way you’ll ever see most of the dungeons or raids.

Here’s the difference that even a bit of automated kindness can make: if you have pre-scripted, helpful language ready to go for in-game chat, you can transform what are otherwise at best silent affairs (and at worst, the worst language of humanity) into relatively pleasant dungeon crawls.

Moriturus @ Earthen Ring - Community - World of Warcraft

For example, I have a series of basic quotes that I use on my Death Knight that help to explain what a boss does (and what to avoid) plus simple pleasantries like hello, goodbye, and generic group thanks. These are bound to macros so that I don’t even have to type out the sentences, just a few letters and the canned text appears. It’s not necessarily sincere, authentic communication because it’s all canned, but it never fails that more people become talkative in-group, more people do their jobs better (like not standing in fire), and more people say thank you at the end of a dungeon crawl when you use canned, scripted kindness than not.

Why? Because the general experience is otherwise awful. The general experience is oppressively silent or consists only of people berating each other for screwing up. The general experience is a lot like the general public. Some nice folks, some bad folks, and a lot of folks in the middle. Whoever speaks up first sets the tone for the rest of the run, so if the first comment is something along the lines of “WTF NOOB” or like comments, the rest of the pack tends to follow along. If the first comment is a mildly entertaining introduction like this:

“Hi there! I’m your duly designated meat shield. A few basics: don’t stand in bad, we go only as fast as the healer can go because dying slows us down more, need if you really do need (even off spec), everyone needs on lockboxes. Ready to have some fun?”

Then the tone is set for the otherwise silent majority to go along with.

Your marketing, your management of groups, your handling of the general public is no different. The tone you set, the comments you make, the language you use set up the experience you are likely to have, assuming you can do what you say you can do. If you choose language in your marketing that is condescending, brusque, or unhelpful, don’t be surprised when your customers treat you that way. If you choose language that is helpful and kind, even if it’s canned, automated, or scripted, you’ll set the initial tone much more tuned to the success you want to generate.

Here’s an exercise for you to try. Grab any piece of marketing collateral, from an email auto responder to a product page on your website, and examine it. Is the language helpful and kind, neutral and boring, or condescending and potentially insulting? If this is the first interaction someone has with you, does the marketing collateral set the tone you want to have set in their minds?

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One response to “Even canned kindness helps”

  1. My husband and I, both long-time WoW players, were having this discussion yesterday regarding canned responses. Your take gives me a new perspective, as I was completely against canned messages from leaders. I still think that having an auto-“grats!” in guild chat is like having an auto-DM on Twitter: it turns people off rather than making them feel connected. Your example is a great one, though, because it provides needed info to your group and saves you the trouble of forging that message every time. Thanks!

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