What Does Common Sense Mean? It Depends Who You Ask


Recently, there was a pretty major ice storm in the Midwest. A jewelry store owner there was surprised when she received a text message from one of her customers, asking if the store was open and if they’d be able to pick up her special order as planned. The owner answered the text, affirming that the store was indeed open and that the special order was there, and then, separately, expressed her astonishment at being texted. “Why wouldn’t they just call the store?” she asked. “It’s just common sense!”

I asked how old her customer was, and received the answer I expected: a young Millennial. And I knew that if I asked that shopper about her decision to text the business to find out what she needed to know, she’d consider the answer “common sense” – of course she was going to text!

Common sense is the phrase we use to refer to phenomenon that seem to us to be self-evidently obvious – those things that are so true that everyone clearly understands them. Sooner or later, life teaches everyone that common sense isn’t universal: other people haven’t had the same experiences or influences, and what’s self-evidently obvious to them is different than what’s self-evidently obvious to you.

This is important to understand as you think through how customers contact your business. Messaging app usage is at an all-time high, and for many customers, reaching out to businesses via Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat is just common sense. At the same time, they expect to be able to access your company through email, website chat programs, and via social media. These tools serve interchangeably as communications channels in their experience – and have you noticed that making a phone call has appeared nowhere on this list?

Conventional wisdom – which is like common sense, but fancier – tells us that if your customers are reaching out to you, it’s in your business’ best interests to respond promptly and professionally. This means maintaining an awareness of all of your contact points: make sure notifications are set up properly so nothing gets dropped. At the same time, it’s still worthwhile to retain those items that are common sense communication channels from your perspective. You know how many phone calls your business receives!

As business owners, we have to be aware that customer expectations are continually increasing, based in part on tech-based offerings from larger firms. When car insurance companies make filing a damage claim as simple as snapping and sending a picture, our customers are going to balk if we make them go through a more cumbersome process when there’s an issue. After all, to them, it’s just common sense that their responsibilities should be kept to a minimum while the company takes care of the rest. I’m sure you can think about other examples that have affected your business. Common sense changes over the course of time – and we have to be ready to understand what that means for our companies.

What Does Common Sense Mean? It Depends Who You Ask
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What Does Common Sense Mean? It Depends Who You Ask
As a business owner, you have to be aware that customer expectations are continually increasing especially with the convenience of technology.

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