Better World Books: a great example of hi-touch relationship marketing

Better World Books is a customer-centred company

We like customer-centric companies because they leave us feeling good.  And also because the kind of behaviour that we label as being customer-centred is rare.  It is the combination of the two that put Better World Books on my emotional radar back in December 2010 when I received an email from Better World Books that took me by surprise and delighted me.  I was so impressed that I wrote the following post which I encourage you to read: ‘Better World Books: a great example of customer-centricity’.

Their latest email is a great example of hi-touch relationship marketing

Today I opened up an email from Better World Books that left me smiling, laughing and just delighted.   In fact, this email is such a good example of hi-touch relationship marketing that I want to share that email with you.  Here it is:

Dear Maz,

We’re just checking in to see if you received your order (The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living). If it hasn’t arrived please respond to this email and let us know.

We aim to flabbergast our customers with impeccable service so do let us know if we haven’t achieved this in your case by responding to this email. Amazon.co.uk gives you the opportunity to leave us feedback. You can do this by visiting http://www.amazon.co.uk/feedback . We would be grateful if you would take the time to rate us on the order and service received.

Thanks again for buying from us.

Humbly Yours,

Indaba (our super-cool email robot)”

Straight after reading the email I went to Amazon and gave Better World Books a five star rating – the maximum.  And here I am sharing it with you. 

What makes this email so effective, so delightful?

The vast majority of business communications strike me as dull, inhuman (corporate speak) and the communicator pushing stuff at me.  And as such I tend to ignore them – I suspect that you do the same and that is why direct mail response rates are around 1 – 2%!   So what makes this email so effective?

“Dear Maz” Maz is what I call myself yet it is not my first name and it is not on Amazon’s records.  So it is clear that Better World Books have gone the extra mile to figure out, record and use my preferred first name.  That is a great first touch – only friends and colleagues call me ‘Maz’.

“We’re just checking in to see if you have received your order.. – the way that I relate to this is wow here is a company that cares about me and is checking to see if all is ok and if not it is inviting me to get in touch with them.

“We aim to flabbergast our customers with impeccable service… – this sentence has such a resonance because of my past experience with Better World Books, the fact that the book that I ordered arrived before it’s due date and because of this email.  Put differently, I totally believe that Better World Books are being straight when they say that they aim to flabbergast their customers with impeccable service.  Lastly, I am simply flabbergasted that I company would make such a statement in writing.  I have never read that kind of statement from any other company that I do business with!

“Amazon.co.uk gives you the opportunity to leave us feedback..” – they are inviting me to leave feedback and it really does occur as an invitation that I can accept or decline, there is no hard sell.  Yet by the time Better World Books are making this invitation they have done all that is necessary to get that feedback, positive feedback, from me;

“Thanks again for buying from us. – as human beings we do like to be acknowledged and a simple thank you is great way of acknowledging our customers and making them feel good about us;

“Humbly Yours,  Indaba (our super-cool email robot)” – I cannot tell you why but at some emotional level I simply love this ending.  It is so unpretentious and it is something that one of my best friends would write.  And there is a wonderful twist: it really would be something if a robot was writing such a personal email that pushes so many emotional buttons!

It is short and it is easy to understand – it probably took me less than 30 seconds to read it and get it both emotionally and rationally.

Conclusion

In the west we live in and are immersed in a technology centred world and this technology has brought us great benefits.  The downside is that it has encouraged businesses to act like machines.  In the process many of us, especially as customers and employees, are starved of the human touch that reaches into our emotional core.  So there is gaping hole waiting to be filled by smart companies like Better World Books who use hi-tech to practice hi-touch!

One more thing to mention

There is world of difference between relationship marketing and database driven direct marketing practices by most customer marketing groups.  Relationship marketing aims to build relationships  through emotional bonds like this email from Better World Books.  As such relationship marketing communications are not all about selling.  This is sharp contrast to database driven direct marketing masquerading as relationship marketing.  How can you tell the difference?  You only hear from the latter when they have something to sell to you in part because these marketers cannot demonstrate ROI on service centred communications.



If you want to improve the customer experience put fairness into the contracting process

Focus on reducing the effort that customers make

A recent HBR article titled Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers the authors argue that delight does not deliver loyalty if companies fail to get the basics right.  They argue that companies should focus on reducing the effort that customers make in doing business with them. 

The importance of the contracting process

Now what can be more basic then making it easy for customer to figure out what they are signing up for?   I’d argue that the contracting process is the start of the relationship and the vendor has a responsibility to make it absolutely clear to the customer what she is signing up for.  And in particular, it is critical that the vendor makes the customer aware of anything that the customer may find an unpleasant surprise after she signs ups.  Why?  Because we dislike unpleasant surprises.  We feel cheated when what we signed up for is not what we think we signed up for.  It erodes trust.  And trust is the foundation of all ongoing relationships.

How are UK companies doing in making contracting fair, easy and transparent?

So it is with interest that I read the following article: Problem contracts cost consumers £3b, OFT says.   Here is paragraph that leaps out at me:

“Common problems included a lower quality of service than expected, firms interpreting contracts to their own advantage, problems accessing a service, and poor customer service.”

The OFT study goes on to say: “The highest instance of problems occurred with telecoms and internet access packages, with 10.3% of consumers surveyed affected.”

Is taking advantage of your customers limited to these two industries? No.  The study says:

“Telecoms and internet access aside, of the 32 sectors investigated by the OFT problem areas included home entertainment, home deliveries, home improvement, travel, mobile phones and in-home services and repair.”

I wonder if all this talk about customer focus is simply talk

How hard is it to make the contracting process easy and fair?  I contend that it easy if you want to do it.  So why are companies not making their contracts fair, easy to read and easy to understand?  Bear in mind that the worst culprits according to the OFT, the telecoms companies, have been on the Customer Experience bandwagon since about 2002.