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Get personal or don’t bother
I recently got a ‘Dear Valued Client’ letter from a supplier offering me a discount for the next time I used their services. It’s a supplier we work with lots and have done for a long time. I suspect they’d be horrified to know that their letter was the catalyst that finally led us to look elsewhere.
I’m sure they had good intentions – after all they were trying to reward my loyalty by giving me a discount – but little did they realise that this communication reinforced my niggling feeling that they really didn’t give a shit about me or what I wanted.
The problem started at the top of the letter when they didn’t even bother to use my name. The Dear Valued Client introduction suggested this was a mass-mailing to all their clients, and I was ‘important’ enough to be a line in their spreadsheet. This did nothing to make me feel known, let alone valued.
The truth is they know who I am - they used my name on the address sticker – so how much effort would it have taken to address the letter Dear Steven? It’s just an extra field in their mail merge that could have set the communication off in the right way.
Secondly, the letter gave me no indication that they understood the nature of our relationship. They talked about how long they’d been offering their services and proceeded to list them all. We use some of these services but most of the stuff on their list had nothing to do with us. I would have liked to see something that acknowledged that we’d been working together for X years and that they partnered us with services X, Y and Z.
And finally, the simple percentage discount offer failed to acknowledge what was important to me in working with them. They might as well have offered a free set of steak-knives in terms of relevancy for our relationship.
Here’s how I think this should have gone. First, I would have chosen a different communication medium. We have a relationship manager and I think something that is designed to make me feel personally valued should have come from them, face-to-face or at the very least by phone. This would also avoid the generic message issue, as the relationship manager can talk about specific things that demonstrates how they value our relationship.
For a while I’ve been talking to this company about a couple of things that were bugging me. They could have easily rewarded me by addressing just one of these things. Now that would have told me that they’d listened and understood me (and probably cost them less than the discount).
Technology has made communicating much easier but the fundamentals of thinking about your audience and what you want them to think, feel and do hasn’t. Relationships are always personal so if you want to tell me I’m valued, show me and make me feel it, otherwise don’t bother.