I'm a huge critic of cut and paste thank you letters and emails. They have to be done, I suppose, and it's good practice to thank your customers. But they rarely get read unless you're making some kind of offer (which really isn't a thank you letter at all, but a solicitation) and most of them are intolerably impersonal.
Then I got this email today:
Dear Our Most Valued Guest,
On behalf of our Team Hampton, we want to personally thank you for Recent stay with us at the Hampton Inn by Prime Outlet Mall , Ohio. We want All of our guests to be truly satisfied and have a comfortable stay. We strive to make all things right for our guest. We hope you will consider staying with us in the future. We appreciate your business Here at the Hampton Inn. We are working harder than ever to deliver Quality service to our guests. Thanks to Guest like you we know that we are on the right track.
Outstanding Team Hampton, By Prime Outlet Mall
So alright, they lose points for that horrible salutation and the email came in a unreadable script font and yes, it's a stilted form letter. But all together it felt kind of good to me. This wasn't a faceless, corporate response to my credit card being processed across their books. This was a letter from the actual people I dealt with during my stay at a Hampton Inn.
Why did it affect me, when other emails from Hampton Inn regularly get ignored? For me, the answer was immediately obvious: The communication was at the level of my interaction with the company.
Too often big companies try to aggregate their communications for efficiencies in cost and management. But in doing so we lose touch with what the communication was intended to achieve. A thank you letter is something that people write to people, not what companies write to customers. So for a thank you letter to have optimal effectiveness, it needs to push down the chain and come from the sales associate, not the Vice President of Retail Operations.
Thinking back to episode 108 of The BeanCast, this is why Edward Boches was so excited about Nordstrom. It wasn't because he was receiving communications from corporate, but rather because he was receiving personal tweets from a sales associate who was letting him know when new shirts arrived. Communications that are at the level of our interaction with a brand simply mean more. And the bigger a company is, the more important this becomes. It gives a face to the facelessness of big operations.
Yes, it's more complicated and yes you may have to give up a bit of centralized control. But in the end this unbranded, hacked together communication from a local manager is the only email from Hampton Inn (and I've received dozens because of my recent travels) that I haven't deleted immediately. There's some food for thought.