My Boss Told Me To Quit or Be Fired

Editor’s note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues — everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

Here’s a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.

1. My boss told me to quit or be fired

For the last six months, I’ve essentially been on “probation” with my supervisor, determining if this manager role is a good fit for me. His conclusion is that I do not possess the skills necessary for this role. Instead of terminating my employment, they offered me another position – a demotion to a role that I was supervising. They stated they do not want to lose me. Even though I do not yet have another job lined up, I have decided to turn down this role. I do not feel it would be a good move for my career, nor for this team. When I turned down this offer, I had the option to resign or to be terminated. I chose to resign.

Given the situation, what should I tell my team and colleagues? I’m not leaving by my own choice – even though technically, I am the one who has chosen to resign because I did not want the other options. I don’t want to leave on bad terms or badmouth my boss, as I know that can haunt you later! But how can I be honest about the situation without tarnishing my reputation or my boss’s?

Often in this situation, people work with their manager on messaging that lets them save face a bit — so that you’re not stuck saying “they wanted to demote me” and they’re not saying “we asked her to leave.” One option people often use is a simple statement that they realized (either on their own, or mutually with the employer) that the role wasn’t the right fit. Some people will assume there’s more to the story, but it’s a good, basic line to use when you don’t want to get into details.

So, it might sound like this: “I appreciated the opportunity to work with all of you, but ultimately didn’t feel it was the right fit for me.” Or, “I realized that ultimately I’m looking for a role with more ___.”

2. We accidentally left our new employee behind when we went to a staff lunch

We have quarterly staff lunches, but due to our size and our work, we have to split the lunch into two groups. My new employee, who started a few weeks ago, was put into the second group. While the staff left, my colleague went to the bathroom and in the rush of getting taxis, etc., she was left behind. My employee is furious.

I am her direct supervisor but was not part of the planning committee. What can I do, as I don’t think this was intentional? I am also new to this organization and I feel terrible. Our manger only said, “Why didn’t she just get her own taxi to join?” I am not sure this an appropriate response and would like to tell people to just apologize to her. But everyone is taking the lead of the manager and no one has said anything to her.

While that was an oversight that shouldn’t have happened, she’s furious? That’s a bit of an overreaction. I agree that she should have just gotten a taxi herself, but even if she didn’t think to do that (or for some reason thought it wasn’t an option), fury isn’t really warranted here. I would tell her that you’re very sorry that this happened, that it was obviously not intentional, and that you assume that in the rush to get into taxis, each group assumed she was with the other. Maybe add that you’d like to take her out to lunch (or take her and rest of your team, if it’s a small one) to make up for it. And you can also make a point of showing her that she’s valued in other ways, and go out of your way to include her in group discussions and anything else that comes up. But this shouldn’t require a major to-do beyond that — so if she stays furious, I’d look into what else might be going on.

3. Should I recommend a former coworker for a job if I liked her work but others complained about her?

At my last job, I was treated pretty badly and I quit. A colleague of mine who still works there has also been struggling there lately and wants to quit. When the company I just got hired at asked if I knew anyone who specialized in finance, I thought of my colleague right away, but didn’t say anything. I want to help her out, but I haven’t even started the job yet. Also, although I have always got along great with her, others have complained about her being fussy. I want to protect myself at this new job (I had been out of work for months), but I feel bad for not passing along this opportunity to her. What are your thoughts?

If you can genuinely vouch for her work and think she’s good, recommend her. They explicitly asked you for recommendations, after all. But if you have reservations about her work or style, then yeah, you don’t want to stake your reputation on someone you have qualms about. One middle ground is to give them the full story on her — good and potentially not as good. (For instance: “She’s amazing at X and Y and I’ve always found her easy to get along with, but I know that some people found her overly process-oriented.”)

4. Explaining what I’ve been doing since getting laid off

I recently had a phone screening, which I thought went well, but I got the expected question of “What have you been doing in the meantime since your position ended five months ago?” My answer: I’ve used various software on my own machine to maintain my skills, attended various conferences recently to maintain awareness about the industry. I also mentioned how I have been aggressively applying for jobs (with several interviews, albeit no offers). I also mentioned how I’m about to begin my seasonal work, which I’ve had for several years.

I understand why managers ask that, and am fine with that, but was what I said fine? I tried to be as honest as I could in the question.

I’d leave out the part of aggressively job searching in the future. Interviewers who ask this question are looking for answers like volunteering, taking a class, learning a new skill, working in your community — something that’s going to make you a more valuable employee when you return to work. Also, rightly or wrongly, talking about an aggressive job search risks coming across as a little desperate and like you might take any job, rather than specifically being interested in this one. (If it helps, imagine a date telling you that she’s been aggressively looking for a relationship; it would be a turn-off for similar reasons, even though I realize the context isn’t a perfect parallel.)

5. Can I ask why it took so long to be contacted for an interview?

I applied for a job four months ago and was just contacted for an interview. During the interview, it it appropriate to ask why it took so long (in a polite way, of course)?

Sure. But you need to sound like you’re asking to better understand the role and its context in their organization, not like you’re just annoyed that you had to wait so long. I’d say it this way: “I noticed the job has been open since November, or at least that’s when I applied. Can I ask what’s been going on with the role since then?”

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

MeToo Has Men Scared, But Women Are Still Suffering

After #MeToo and the storm of sexual harassment allegations, many male leaders worry they’ll land in a compromising position. While this hyper-awareness helps prevent sexual harassment, it also hurts women professionally.

In January, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey surveyed almost 3,000 employed adults. They found that almost half of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring, socializing, or working alone with women.

As a woman, that disheartens me. Such fear closes women off from valuable learning and career opportunities, including one I’ve seen increasing in popularity: sponsorship.

Unlike mentoring — which focuses on merely advising young professionals — sponsors actively speak up for a young person to help their career progress. Having a male sponsor means a woman has access to opportunities traditionally only open to men.

Instead of shying away from these relationships, male leaders should step up to the plate.

1. Understand your own reputation.

One of the biggest benefits of having a sponsor is access to their social capital. Having built a strong network, when you speak up for a female professional, people listen to what you have to say.

For example,Kerrie MacPherson is now a senior advisory partner in New York for the accounting and professional services firm EY. Early in her career, she had a male sponsor who was known to be a hard marker. When he spoke to others about her skills and successes, they knew she was the real deal.

“It’s important, to understand that mentors talk with you, whereas sponsors talk about you and use their personal reputations to advocate on your behalf,” MacPherson said.

When you find a woman to sponsor, consider what you bring to the table. Do others value your opinion because of your honesty, your creativity, your experience, etc.? Knowing your own strengths will help you better position your sponsee.

For example, if you’ve spent most of your career in marketing, talking about the woman’s own marketing skills will hold more weight than talking about her customer service experience.

2. Formalize expectations.

In a mentorship, it’s up to the mentee to act on advice or not. A sponsorship needs to be more structured. Both parties need to establish a goal to work toward.

Choo Kim-Isgitt was hired as the chief marketing officer of the San Diego-based email and web security company EdgeWave. But in a short period of time, the CEO and chairman, Lou Ryan, saw she brought more to the table.

“He has involved me in various strategic decisions in the organization, from product development to business development, working closely with the COO,” Kim-Isgitt said. “As a result, my role has evolved into a more product-focused role, driving product roadmap development and overall product strategy.”

It’s not enough to identify her talent, you also need to align her potential with her ambitions. Find out where she’d like to be a year, five years, and 10 years down the road. Discuss connections you have who can help. Then form a plan covering what both you and she will do to help her reach her goals.

3. Walk out of the spotlight.

Over the years,Darin Reffitt, the vice president of marketing at Calgary-based customer experience platform SPLICE Software, has sponsored several women. He’s learned the key to success is entering the relationship selflessly.

“Mentoring is pretty much in the job description for being a good manager,” he said.

By guiding the people on your team, you contribute to your own success. But being a sponsor means backing an employee solely for her triumph.

Always give your sponsee credit for her great ideas and hard work. Praise her to other leaders and recommend her for opportunities you hear about through your network. This might take her away from your team, but that doesn’t matter. The primary focus is her professional success.

4. Truly understand the gender barriers.

The willingness to help a woman succeed professional does not mean a man is unbiased. Most men are unaware how much their gender has aided in their success. By sponsoring women, you’ll get a better look at the obstacles women really face.

“I’ve heard from a number of male sponsors that they were shocked at what women have to navigate, tolerate and overcome,” saidAudrey J. Murrell, the Pittsburgh-based co-editor of Mentoring Diverse Leaders. “Many times their response is ‘I had no idea.'”

Take this new information and examine your own organization. Become an ally for not only the woman you sponsor, but also all working women. Meet with female professionals and ask for their input on making your workplace more equal. You might be surprised what gender-based challenges are right under your nose.

MeToo Has Men Scared, But Women Are Still Suffering

After #MeToo and the storm of sexual harassment allegations, many male leaders worry they’ll land in a compromising position. While this hyper-awareness helps prevent sexual harassment, it also hurts women professionally.

In January, LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey surveyed almost 3,000 employed adults. They found that almost half of male managers are uncomfortable mentoring, socializing, or working alone with women.

As a woman, that disheartens me. Such fear closes women off from valuable learning and career opportunities, including one I’ve seen increasing in popularity: sponsorship.

Unlike mentoring — which focuses on merely advising young professionals — sponsors actively speak up for a young person to help their career progress. Having a male sponsor means a woman has access to opportunities traditionally only open to men.

Instead of shying away from these relationships, male leaders should step up to the plate.

1. Understand your own reputation.

One of the biggest benefits of having a sponsor is access to their social capital. Having built a strong network, when you speak up for a female professional, people listen to what you have to say.

For example,Kerrie MacPherson is now a senior advisory partner in New York for the accounting and professional services firm EY. Early in her career, she had a male sponsor who was known to be a hard marker. When he spoke to others about her skills and successes, they knew she was the real deal.

“It’s important, to understand that mentors talk with you, whereas sponsors talk about you and use their personal reputations to advocate on your behalf,” MacPherson said.

When you find a woman to sponsor, consider what you bring to the table. Do others value your opinion because of your honesty, your creativity, your experience, etc.? Knowing your own strengths will help you better position your sponsee.

For example, if you’ve spent most of your career in marketing, talking about the woman’s own marketing skills will hold more weight than talking about her customer service experience.

2. Formalize expectations.

In a mentorship, it’s up to the mentee to act on advice or not. A sponsorship needs to be more structured. Both parties need to establish a goal to work toward.

Choo Kim-Isgitt was hired as the chief marketing officer of the San Diego-based email and web security company EdgeWave. But in a short period of time, the CEO and chairman, Lou Ryan, saw she brought more to the table.

“He has involved me in various strategic decisions in the organization, from product development to business development, working closely with the COO,” Kim-Isgitt said. “As a result, my role has evolved into a more product-focused role, driving product roadmap development and overall product strategy.”

It’s not enough to identify her talent, you also need to align her potential with her ambitions. Find out where she’d like to be a year, five years, and 10 years down the road. Discuss connections you have who can help. Then form a plan covering what both you and she will do to help her reach her goals.

3. Walk out of the spotlight.

Over the years,Darin Reffitt, the vice president of marketing at Calgary-based customer experience platform SPLICE Software, has sponsored several women. He’s learned the key to success is entering the relationship selflessly.

“Mentoring is pretty much in the job description for being a good manager,” he said.

By guiding the people on your team, you contribute to your own success. But being a sponsor means backing an employee solely for her triumph.

Always give your sponsee credit for her great ideas and hard work. Praise her to other leaders and recommend her for opportunities you hear about through your network. This might take her away from your team, but that doesn’t matter. The primary focus is her professional success.

4. Truly understand the gender barriers.

The willingness to help a woman succeed professional does not mean a man is unbiased. Most men are unaware how much their gender has aided in their success. By sponsoring women, you’ll get a better look at the obstacles women really face.

“I’ve heard from a number of male sponsors that they were shocked at what women have to navigate, tolerate and overcome,” saidAudrey J. Murrell, the Pittsburgh-based co-editor of Mentoring Diverse Leaders. “Many times their response is ‘I had no idea.'”

Take this new information and examine your own organization. Become an ally for not only the woman you sponsor, but also all working women. Meet with female professionals and ask for their input on making your workplace more equal. You might be surprised what gender-based challenges are right under your nose.

Meet Jollibee: The Filipino Fast Food Restaurant That Is Breaking the Internet

It seems that a particular fast food restaurant has truly mastered the art of viral marketing. No, it’s not McDonald’s or KFC. In fact, if you live in America, odds are you’ve never heard of this place.

It’s Jollibee, the Philippines’ undisputed fast food king.

I learned about Jollibee years ago. See, my father is from the Philippines. When I was in my early 20s, I got the idea to visit his native country, so I could better learn his language, Tagalog, and get to know my roots. So, in 2008, I traveled to the country made up of over 7,000 islands (exactly how many depends on whether it’s high tide or low tide). It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

On that trip I discovered Jollibee, in all its glory. Although I had heard lots about it, I had never seen one in person (nor its famous smiling bee mascot). The menu was like a snapshot of my youth, with offerings like Filipino-style spaghetti (it’s a bit sweeter than what most Americans are used to) and “Halo-halo” (literally translated, “mix-mix”), a delicious dessert made up of shaved ice, evaporated milk, fruit, coconut, ice cream…and boiled sweet beans. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)

And then, there was my absolute favorite–fried chicken. But unlike at KFC, I could actually get this chicken with rice and gravy, the way we always ate it at home.

Jollibee calls it Chickenjoy. For good reason.

Recently, Jollibee has been making the news: The company has released a number of commercials that have gone viral. Their three most recent ads, which were released only a month ago, have already amassed over 57 million views on Facebook and YouTube. But what’s really amazing is that this is no quirk, as a number of Jollibee’s ads have gone viral, with millions upon millions of views.

So, how do they do it?

It all comes down to Jollibee’s ability to touch consumers’ emotions.

Jollibee knows its target audience.

Many Filipinos are quick to acknowledge that our culture is very emotionally expressive, and that more than a few of us are diehard romantics. (It also doesn’t hurt that Filipinos spend more time on social media than any other country, with the average user spending almost 4 hours on social every day.)

Knowing this, Jollibee works hard to pull its customers’ heart strings.

For example, consider “Signs,” the most popular of the three recently released commercials. It tells the story of a college coed who looks to the universe to help her find true love, before realizing that it happened to be there all along.

In “Status” (my personal favorite of the three videos–you can find it at the end of this post), a young woman deals with heartbreak after heartbreak. After initially feeling sorry for herself, she changes her mindset, realizing that she should be thankful for her family, who has stuck by her side through thick and thin and helped her through the hard times.

“There are actually people who love me for who I am,” she says. “No matter what.”

These storylines aren’t necessarily new, but they work. Together, these two ads have been over 1.5 million times, with almost 500,000 shares on Facebook alone.

They invest in long form content.

Watching these ads, you’ll notice they are more like short films than commercials. (“Signs” is over four minutes, with “Status” and “Homecoming,” the third video, each clocking in just under four.)

By making this type of investment, Jollibee makes it possible to tell a great story.

Think about that for a moment. With more and more media being viewed online as opposed to traditional television, which ad do you think will be more effective: the 30-second one that consumers press the “skip” button just halfway through watching? Or the one that viewers are actually moved to share on social media?

So, if you’re trying to create content that your audience will share, remember:

1. Get to know what will reach your audience on an emotional level.

2. Don’t focus purely on selling a product. Tell us a good story instead.

Succeed at doing that, and you won’t have to convince your customers to watch your ads–they’ll already be looking for them.

[embedded content]

Meet Jollibee: The Filipino Fast Food Restaurant That Is Breaking the Internet

It seems that a particular fast food restaurant has truly mastered the art of viral marketing. No, it’s not McDonald’s or KFC. In fact, if you live in America, odds are you’ve never heard of this place.

It’s Jollibee, the Philippines’ undisputed fast food king.

I learned about Jollibee years ago. See, my father is from the Philippines. When I was in my early 20s, I got the idea to visit his native country, so I could better learn his language, Tagalog, and get to know my roots. So, in 2008, I traveled to the country made up of over 7,000 islands (exactly how many depends on whether it’s high tide or low tide). It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

On that trip I discovered Jollibee, in all its glory. Although I had heard lots about it, I had never seen one in person (nor its famous smiling bee mascot). The menu was like a snapshot of my youth, with offerings like Filipino-style spaghetti (it’s a bit sweeter than what most Americans are used to) and “Halo-halo” (literally translated, “mix-mix”), a delicious dessert made up of shaved ice, evaporated milk, fruit, coconut, ice cream…and boiled sweet beans. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)

And then, there was my absolute favorite–fried chicken. But unlike at KFC, I could actually get this chicken with rice and gravy, the way we always ate it at home.

Jollibee calls it Chickenjoy. For good reason.

Recently, Jollibee has been making the news: The company has released a number of commercials that have gone viral. Their three most recent ads, which were released only a month ago, have already amassed over 57 million views on Facebook and YouTube. But what’s really amazing is that this is no quirk, as a number of Jollibee’s ads have gone viral, with millions upon millions of views.

So, how do they do it?

It all comes down to Jollibee’s ability to touch consumers’ emotions.

Jollibee knows its target audience.

Many Filipinos are quick to acknowledge that our culture is very emotionally expressive, and that more than a few of us are diehard romantics. (It also doesn’t hurt that Filipinos spend more time on social media than any other country, with the average user spending almost 4 hours on social every day.)

Knowing this, Jollibee works hard to pull its customers’ heart strings.

For example, consider “Signs,” the most popular of the three recently released commercials. It tells the story of a college coed who looks to the universe to help her find true love, before realizing that it happened to be there all along.

In “Status” (my personal favorite of the three videos–you can find it at the end of this post), a young woman deals with heartbreak after heartbreak. After initially feeling sorry for herself, she changes her mindset, realizing that she should be thankful for her family, who has stuck by her side through thick and thin and helped her through the hard times.

“There are actually people who love me for who I am,” she says. “No matter what.”

These storylines aren’t necessarily new, but they work. Together, these two ads have been over 1.5 million times, with almost 500,000 shares on Facebook alone.

They invest in long form content.

Watching these ads, you’ll notice they are more like short films than commercials. (“Signs” is over four minutes, with “Status” and “Homecoming,” the third video, each clocking in just under four.)

By making this type of investment, Jollibee makes it possible to tell a great story.

Think about that for a moment. With more and more media being viewed online as opposed to traditional television, which ad do you think will be more effective: the 30-second one that consumers press the “skip” button just halfway through watching? Or the one that viewers are actually moved to share on social media?

So, if you’re trying to create content that your audience will share, remember:

1. Get to know what will reach your audience on an emotional level.

2. Don’t focus purely on selling a product. Tell us a good story instead.

Succeed at doing that, and you won’t have to convince your customers to watch your ads–they’ll already be looking for them.

[embedded content]

Why We Don’t Try to Engage Our Customers

By Sean Harper, CEO/co-founder at Kin Insurance.

Engaged customers tend to be more loyal. They tend to be more satisfied. They tend to buy more. Because of these tendencies, most companies strive for high levels of customer engagement, consistently looking for ways to stay “top of mind.”

At Kin, we don’t.

Here’s the thing: Customer satisfaction and loyalty may correlate with engagement, but they’re not necessarily linked causally. That’s an important distinction.

What’s even more important is remembering that customer engagement is not an end in itself. If your goal in engaging your customers is purely to keep them from forgetting about you — that is, if the engagement brings no additional value to their lives — you’re doing it wrong.

What’s Your Ideal Customer Experience?

I founded Kin after a really terrible experience buying homeowner’s insurance. Did I want to buy homeowner’s insurance? No. I had to. Did I know the answers to all the questions on the application? Nope. And the worst part was, because I have a background in tech, I knew the answers were available online in a place where the insurance company could have gotten them if it wanted to.

So to me, a home insurance customer, the ideal scenario is that I think about homeowner’s insurance once a year when I renew, and the rest of the time I’m living my life. I’m relaxed and comfortable because I trust that if anything goes wrong, my insurance company will take care of me.

An even better scenario is that I’m happy because I know my insurance company will get in touch with me if (and only if) it has a really good reason to do so. In other words, my ideal experience as an insurance customer is one with very little engagement. It’s one that’s built on trust, sure, but it’s also more or less under the radar.

If I were running a restaurant or a retail outlet, I would want a wildly different engagement experience for my customers. The same is true if I were selling SaaS or photography services. The point is that high customer engagement shouldn’t be a default metric we all strive for. Every business owner should take a step back and ask themselves what an ideal engagement scenario is for their business.

High Engagement Does Not Always Equal Satisfaction

High engagement tends to work well for businesses that rely on user-created content (like review sites), businesses that are frequently updating or changing their offerings (like SaaS platforms) and retail businesses where impulse purchases are a reasonable expectation.

It shouldn’t be an expectation for those of us who sell things customers only need once in a while — eye doctors, for example, or window vendors.

In fact, attempting to increase engagement when you’re in one of these industries can have profoundly negative effects. For example, let’s say you go to your eye doctor for your annual exam. Your vision hasn’t changed and you don’t need a new prescription. Great! But then you start getting emails from the doctor’s office — marketing emails telling you about the new frames they have, the latest styles in eyeglasses, their renovation and more.

You find this content annoying so you unsubscribe. And then you miss the email reminding you to make an appointment next year — the one email that would have actually been useful.

If the eye doctor had instead sent emails only to remind you to make your next appointment (and maybe to remind you of that appointment as it approached), you would have been less engaged but ultimately more satisfied.

When Engaging Makes Sense

Of course, if and when it’s possible to make customers’ lives better through engagement, I’m all for it. Some good reasons to engage include:

  • Introducing a new product or feature
  • Announcing a sale
  • Sharing news that affects customers
  • Asking for feedback (once)
  • Requesting information only the customer has
  • Requesting necessary input from the customer, like a signature

For example, Kin currently has a pilot program with a partnering system that helps people detect water leaks in their homes. If a client is a match for the program, we’ll make contact to offer it, as it can help save money on both insurance premiums and water bills.

Focus On Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Remember, customer engagement is important because it’s a proxy for customer satisfaction and loyalty. Forgetting that engagement itself isn’t necessarily a marker of success can lead to disastrous results.

No matter your industry, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself how customer satisfaction and loyalty can best be measured — and then take steps to boost those metrics. This can be difficult, in part because it requires a mindset shift. But investing in things that boost loyalty and satisfaction — user-friendly technology, excellent customer service, relentless improvements to your core product or service — will yield much better results for the long term.

Sean Harper is CEO and co-founder at Kin Insurance, www.kin.com.

Why We Don’t Try to Engage Our Customers

By Sean Harper, CEO/co-founder at Kin Insurance.

Engaged customers tend to be more loyal. They tend to be more satisfied. They tend to buy more. Because of these tendencies, most companies strive for high levels of customer engagement, consistently looking for ways to stay “top of mind.”

At Kin, we don’t.

Here’s the thing: Customer satisfaction and loyalty may correlate with engagement, but they’re not necessarily linked causally. That’s an important distinction.

What’s even more important is remembering that customer engagement is not an end in itself. If your goal in engaging your customers is purely to keep them from forgetting about you — that is, if the engagement brings no additional value to their lives — you’re doing it wrong.

What’s Your Ideal Customer Experience?

I founded Kin after a really terrible experience buying homeowner’s insurance. Did I want to buy homeowner’s insurance? No. I had to. Did I know the answers to all the questions on the application? Nope. And the worst part was, because I have a background in tech, I knew the answers were available online in a place where the insurance company could have gotten them if it wanted to.

So to me, a home insurance customer, the ideal scenario is that I think about homeowner’s insurance once a year when I renew, and the rest of the time I’m living my life. I’m relaxed and comfortable because I trust that if anything goes wrong, my insurance company will take care of me.

An even better scenario is that I’m happy because I know my insurance company will get in touch with me if (and only if) it has a really good reason to do so. In other words, my ideal experience as an insurance customer is one with very little engagement. It’s one that’s built on trust, sure, but it’s also more or less under the radar.

If I were running a restaurant or a retail outlet, I would want a wildly different engagement experience for my customers. The same is true if I were selling SaaS or photography services. The point is that high customer engagement shouldn’t be a default metric we all strive for. Every business owner should take a step back and ask themselves what an ideal engagement scenario is for their business.

High Engagement Does Not Always Equal Satisfaction

High engagement tends to work well for businesses that rely on user-created content (like review sites), businesses that are frequently updating or changing their offerings (like SaaS platforms) and retail businesses where impulse purchases are a reasonable expectation.

It shouldn’t be an expectation for those of us who sell things customers only need once in a while — eye doctors, for example, or window vendors.

In fact, attempting to increase engagement when you’re in one of these industries can have profoundly negative effects. For example, let’s say you go to your eye doctor for your annual exam. Your vision hasn’t changed and you don’t need a new prescription. Great! But then you start getting emails from the doctor’s office — marketing emails telling you about the new frames they have, the latest styles in eyeglasses, their renovation and more.

You find this content annoying so you unsubscribe. And then you miss the email reminding you to make an appointment next year — the one email that would have actually been useful.

If the eye doctor had instead sent emails only to remind you to make your next appointment (and maybe to remind you of that appointment as it approached), you would have been less engaged but ultimately more satisfied.

When Engaging Makes Sense

Of course, if and when it’s possible to make customers’ lives better through engagement, I’m all for it. Some good reasons to engage include:

  • Introducing a new product or feature
  • Announcing a sale
  • Sharing news that affects customers
  • Asking for feedback (once)
  • Requesting information only the customer has
  • Requesting necessary input from the customer, like a signature

For example, Kin currently has a pilot program with a partnering system that helps people detect water leaks in their homes. If a client is a match for the program, we’ll make contact to offer it, as it can help save money on both insurance premiums and water bills.

Focus On Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Remember, customer engagement is important because it’s a proxy for customer satisfaction and loyalty. Forgetting that engagement itself isn’t necessarily a marker of success can lead to disastrous results.

No matter your industry, it’s worthwhile to ask yourself how customer satisfaction and loyalty can best be measured — and then take steps to boost those metrics. This can be difficult, in part because it requires a mindset shift. But investing in things that boost loyalty and satisfaction — user-friendly technology, excellent customer service, relentless improvements to your core product or service — will yield much better results for the long term.

Sean Harper is CEO and co-founder at Kin Insurance, www.kin.com.