It's About to Get Personal

Posted by | February 17, 2011 | Perspective | No Comments

Last week, when I walked through the door after a very long day at the zoo (see previous post Microcosmic), my wife greeted me with, “Look at this! What does this look like to you?” And as all of the husbands can relate here—I was immediately on “high alert”, but then to my relief, she followed it up with, “Does this look like a thank you note to you?”

So I take a closer look, and what I thought was one of those cute Christmas cards that contains multiple photos of a happy couple or newborn baby, was actually a thank you note that a couple had sent to my wife and I for the wedding gift we had sent them for their nuptials last September. Granted, I could go off about how badly etiquette was breached on the length of time it took to receive said note, but their tardiness combined with the impersonal picture sans handwritten message, felt like we had just been slapped in the face by the toaster we gave them (actually, I have no idea what we gave them—not my department). And, to add fuel to the fire, we received a lovely thank you card in the same batch of mail from a friend on behalf of her two-year-old’s birthday party we attended the prior weekend. “See! Now that’s a thank you note!” my wife says. Whoops.

So why is this posted here and not as a zinger on my Facebook page or my personal blog? Well, as I talked it through with my wife and attempted to calm her down, I realized that the importance she was placing on a personalized thank you was strikingly similar to what customers expect when engaging with a brand presence online, regardless of the channel.

As loyal customers, we spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars with a brand (heck, it frightens me each time I see how much I’ve spent with Starbucks over the last year—as I type this in a Starbucks). And, when we attempt to engage with that brand through Twitter or Facebook, we expect a personalized response, not just an impersonal message about a weekly special. Brands like the aforementioned Starbucks or Moosejaw get this. They actively listen, and they provide a thoughtful and sometimes—in Moosejaw’s case—irreverent, fun response.

Regardless of how they respond, it’s consistent with their brand personality and it’s timely. And yes, there are many brands that are actively and effectively using online media for customer service (we have all read the case studies), but the fun, personal interactions that Moosejaw makes with its customers quickly forges a relationship that goes beyond a customer-brand relationship.

Social media empowers our customers, but also provides us with yet another channel to make that valuable connection. This is not new information, but it is something we should remind ourselves often. And while we’re at it, we should spend the five minutes or less it takes to write a handwritten note when thanking our friends or family. We really DO care.

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