Klassic Books: an excellent example of how not to write an email requesting help

You might have guessed this and if you have not then I can tell you that I am a prolific reader.  As such I tend to buy more than my fair share books and most of the time I am good at leaving reviews for booksellers.  My thinking: put something into the game, help people out (buyers) and reward good behaviour by booksellers.   It just so happens that I have been particularly busy this month and so have not kept up to date with that which needs to be done including writing reviews. Most of the time when I get a reminder I act on it.  Then I got this reminder – asking for feedback – and it instantly it got my back up.  Why?

How did this email land for me?

Here is the email that I received from Klassic Books – please note that I have highlighted certain parts of the email (the original email was not highlighted):

“Dear Mazafer Iqbal,

As informed to you earlier,  your order number 202-3674826-8273966 for book titled ” I am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj”  placed with KLASSIC Books at Amazon.co.uk has already been delivered to you.

We once again request you to leave your valued feedback on this purchase. To leave feedback, go to http://www.amazon.co.uk/feedback  and sign in with your e-mail address and password. When you find this order, click the ”Leave feedback” button.

As we are a new seller, a positive feedback from you shall help us become a valued seller on Amazon.co.uk

We look forward to another  opportunitity to serve you again.

Regards,
Klassic Books”

So let’s just take a closer look.  I buy a book from Klassic Books via Amazon and as such I enter into a contract: I pay for the book and Klassic Books agrees to send me the book I ordered and that book has to confirm to the listing (new, used etc).  That contract was fulfilled when I received the book within the agreed timescale and the book was in perfect condition.  I am not obliged to do any more.

Leaving a review for this seller or any other seller is a DISCRETIONARY effort on my part. Does the writer of this email from Klassic Books get that?  Does he/she have any understanding of human beings as human beings?  I don’t think so – the email has ‘ruined’ a good experience and left a sour taste in my mouth such that I have no intention of buying anything from this seller.  Why?  Because there email, lands in my world, as both a telling off (for not responding to their first email) and an order to leave a review this time!  Also, it is all about Klassic Books – not about me, not about a worthy cause/mission, not about creating or contributing to a ‘better world’.  Finally, it lacks any sign of that human touch.  And the word “opportunity” is misspelt – a sin that is all too common (include me in here) when it comes to email.

The lesson

If you want a customer to help you out then take time to craft the communication such that it lands positively in the customers world.  Whatever you do, do not make it sound like you are giving orders and/or telling the customer off.  None of us likes to be ordered around and told off.  Why?  We intrinsically value autonomy – being ordered around violates that need/drive for autonomy.  The telling off violates our sense of self worth, self-esteem, dignity – it puts us back into the classroom being told off and feeling humiliated, in front of the class, by an oversized ego called Teacher.  We didn’t like it then and we don’t like it now.  Incidentally, this is why most performance reviews, over the longer term, destroy relationships, intrinsic motivation and performance.

Some questions worth pondering?

How much of your communication lands in your customer’s world as:

  • you talking about your self and your needs (like the Klassic Books email)?
  • you selling stuff that is simply irrelevant to the customer’s situation and needs?
  • to hard to read due to the design (layout, text, fonts….) and so is not read?
  • incomprehensible because you use complex words and industry jargon that leaves your customers confused?
  • snake oil as your claims seem overblown / far fetched / too good to be true?
  • incomplete – not providing all the information that the customer needs to make a decision, to move forward?

Finally, how much of your communication ruins the customer experience and thus incentives your customers to stop doing business with you?

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.



Does marketing deserve a seat at the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity tables?

I believe that the marketing function has a valuable role to play in customer experience and customer-centricity

In the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity communities I have noticed a certain dismissive attitude towards the role and contribution that the marketing (and advertising)  folks can and do make.  To some extent this is not a surprise as some of the most visible proponents of Customer Experience come from a customer services background. Others who share this dismissive attitude tend to come from an operational improvement background and are deeply embedded in process thinking – the engineering mindset.

Whilst I can see the shortcomings, I can also see the value of the marketing function and the contribution it can, does and needs to make: to the customer centric orientation and to the customer experience in particular.   Recently I made my point of view clear on a Linkedin conversation:

“The companies that have marginalized the marketing function are making a big mistake. In my experience, the folks working in the marketing and advertising arena are one of the few tribes that truly get the emotional nature of human beings. The best marketers get the impact of standing for something that resonates with human beings. They get the importance of symbols and how these move human beings. And they get the importance of beauty. They know how to touch upon the emotional, engage and move human beings. Customer Experience requires the harmonious integration between the rational and the emotional.”

There are plenty of people who disagree with my point of view

I was not at all surprised that my comment on Linkedin resulted in the following response – a response that I believe is representative of many working in the CE and customer-centric communities:

“Regarding marketing losing its place at the table in customer-centric companies, had marketing exhibited the skills and behaviors you describe often enough, marketing still would be at the table. However, as an overall profession, marketing is far better at promoting to people than communicating with them. “Understanding” customers isn’t sufficient. In customer-centricity, companies have to see through customer eyes, rather than understand how to look at customers.”

Does this response raise a valid issue?  Absolutely.  Is it an accurate description of marketing?  Let me share an example with you and then you can decide for yourself.

Lets examine the issue through a concrete example: my wife and Tesco

My wife used to shop regularly and almost exclusively at Tesco (the biggest supermarket chain in the UK) and made frequent use of their online shopping and home delivery service.

Over the last three months she has shopped less frequently, bought less and spent less with Tesco.  In part this is simply because she is travelling more and finds other supermarket chains (Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda) more convenient.  It is partly because she is being more frugal.  And it is partly because she had a disappointing experience at a Tesco store: Why my wife will not be relying on Tesco….

On the 24th March 2011 my wife received the following email (I have extracted some information from this email to shorten its length) from the Tesco.com marketing team:

www.tesco.com
If you haven’t shopped online for weeks. 

Don’t worry.

All your favourites are still here.

So you can fill your basket in minutes.

 

£7.50 off
Start Shopping >> e
Dear Mrs Iqbal,  

We’ve noticed that you haven’t placed a grocery shop with us for a while, and we hope that we haven’t let you down.

Please don’t forget how easy and convenient it is to shop online.  All the purchases you’ve made online and in-store are still kept in ‘My Favourites’.

And because we’d really like to welcome you back, we’ll give you £7.50 off your next grocery order when you spend £75 or more.

eCoupon code:
Valid on deliveries up to and including 2nd April 2011.

So why not let us do your shopping for you again soon?

Best wishes,

Kendra Banks
Kendra Banks
Marketing Director
Tesco.com

 

Browse Tesco.com
Double Clubcard points still on; Spend £1, Collect 2 points, Every 150 points = £1.50
Award Winning Service

What impact does this email have on you?  Does this piece of marketing produced by the marketing function improve or degrade your experience, your perception, your attitude towards Tesco?

How has my wife experienced this communication from the Tesco marketing team?

My wife is pleasantly surprised that Tesco noticed that she has shopped and spent less with Tesco. How is she left feeling towards Tesco as a result of this marketing communication?

She says “It makes me feel valued as a customer.  I matter to them and they want me back.  And Tesco is providing value to me as their customer by giving me £7.50 off my next order.  I know it is not a huge amount, yet it does matter that they are giving me this discount.”

What other impact has this email from the marketing function made on my wife?  She is left thinking that Tesco:

  • Is a professional company that is on top of things because they noticed a change in her shopping behaviour;
  • Is proactive because Tesco has taken the first step to recover / ignite the previous shopping behaviour; and
  • Tesco is simple (as in easy to do business with) and straight with its customers because the email is written in that way – no fluff, no gimmicks, no tricks.

You might say great, but has she actually made any behaviour changes?  The answer is yes – she is once again shopping and spending more with Tesco.  And all because of a single email from Tesco’s marketing team.

So what is the lesson?

Marketing matters, the marketing function matters because it touches the customer in so many ways.  And if your marketing function is not making the kind of impact that the Tesco marketing function is making then it is time to learn from Tesco (and others who practice good marketing).

Disclosure: I am a member of the Institute of Direct Marketing and thus possibly biassed!

Better World Books: great example of customer centricity being practiced

I am curious about all kinds of stuff – that means buying quite a few books.  So recently I placed a number of book order from various Amazon partners – one of which is Better World Books.  Before they were invisible to me and now they are firmly in the limelight.  All because they sent me an email last week that simply stopped me in my tracks.  Here is that email:  Better World Books email.

Their email to me is a great example of customer-centricity.  Better World Books have taken the time to put themselves in my shoes and respond to my needs even before I realised I had those needs!  Specifically, they have:

  • anticipated a situation that is likely to get in the way of delivering on their promise and thus result in a poor customer experience;
  • written to let me know that there is a problem and explained what is causing the problems;
  • apologised for any impact that this situation – which is outside of their control – may have on me; and
  • given me sensible options – stick with them or to cancel the order.

The other noteworthy points are:

  • the tone of the email is just right – it is written in a friendly conversational – human – tone;
  • they have supplied their email address and encouraged me to get in touch with them if  I have concerns or questions; and
  • they have done their best to remind me to take circumstances into account when I rate them on Amazon – clearly this is a company that gets the importance of ratings on future business.

Now here is the thing.  I do not know if Better World Books has a customer strategy or not.  I do not know if they have CRM technology or not.  I do not know if they have optimal business processes etc.  Nor, as a customer, do I care.  What I care about is how they treat me, how they leave me feeling.  In my case I am feeling great about doing business with Better World Books.  And I think that their name is apt – they have helped to make my world better.

Next time I am faced with a choice as to who to buy from Better World Books will be top of mind and most importantly top of heart.