Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. The result was, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Some say Hemingway called this his best work. Others say the entire anecdote is literary folktale. In either case, it gave birth to the six-word story, a gauntlet that’s been thrown down in literary circles for decades. SMITH Magazine gave Hemingway’s form a new, personal twist by inventing the six-word memoir – and the submissions have been plentiful enough to fill five books.
The memoirs can be tragic (“I still make coffee for two”), profound (“Never really finished anything. Except cake.”), instructive (“Found great happiness in insignificant details”), funny (“Started off normal. Things went awry.”), universal (“Not quite what I was planning”), and hopeful (“More than yesterday, less than tomorrow”). Famous authors’ self-reflections are expectedly self-aware: “The miserable childhood leads to royalties” (Frank McCourt), “The only way out is in” (Junot Diaz). Comediennes are predictably censor-worthy (You’ll have to buy the book to read the contributions from Joan Rivers and Sarah Silverman). Celebrities also chime in, like chef Mario Batali (“Brought it to a boil. Often.”)
So today, we at CCC give birth to a new six-word challenge: What’s your six-word customer service philosophy?I’ll kick things off:
Want customer loyalty? Make service easy.
This is more than just a fun exercise. It forces you to prioritize what matters in customer service, and it might result in a refreshing return to the basics.
CCC’s recent Harvard Business Review feature title unwittingly fits the bill (Stop trying to delight your customers.) You could think of something related to your role (an HR professional might respond, “Happy employees make for happy customers”). You could issue a manifesto (“Quality is not having to call”). You could make it personal (“I am more than my accent,” says the offshore rep). You could take the opportunity to confess (a frontline employee might admit, “More you swear, less I care;” a quality analyst might come clean, “I decide what’s quality. What’s quality?”)
Are you stuck? You might find yourself bemoaning the constraints of the exercise, as the amateur memoirist did when he penned, “I wish I had more words.” To make things easier, we can export some lessons from successful six-word memoirs:
- Specifics help if humor’s the goal (“After Harvard, had baby with crackhead”)
- But don’t rule out dazzling generalities (“Became more like myself every year”)
- Metaphors work… (“Bad brakes discovered at high speed”)
- …and puns sometimes do (“Soul’d out so I could prophet” – this from Deepak Chopra’s son)
- Meaningul syntax can lend a hand (“…and then occasional good decision”)
You could spend all day brainstorming. Try not to think too hard.
So please share with us in the comments field: What’s your six-word customer service philosophy?