“Dear valued customer”
‘Dear valued customer’. When I see that salutation at the top of a letter, I want to reach for a blunt object, or maybe an ax, all the better to wreak someone’s havoc good and proper. If you say it out loud, fast enough, you get closer to the truth: ‘devalued customer’.
Those three words are reduced to an ugly catchphrase that has about as much meaning as the pre-election promise of a corrupt politician.
When I see those words, I know I am not valued and it is a brush-off. The fact of the matter is that if the writer valued me, he or she would know my name, and write it it out, possibly even by hand with a pen.
Let’s look at reasons for calling someone ‘dear valued customer’.
The first reason is obviously because they don’t know my name and can’t be bothered to find it out. They use that term in the hopes that I will think them being very polite. What I can say in opposition to that is they haven’t heard of name fields or they can’t afford them.
Secondly it could mean I have complained about something. If that is the case, then at least emphasize the intent by underlining the word ‘valued’.
That’s easy enough to do with a word processor, but a pen would also be nice.
The third reason is that they have come to the conclusion that I put money in the till and they want to acknowledge that in a non-committal way, without having to make friends or invite me out for beer
None of the above reasons consider my value.
If I were to write and complain about service in a shop, and nothing else the shop would probably not know about the frequency or magnitude of the transaction. Whether I was buying a fridge or a pack of gum, I would still be ‘dear valued customer’.
The most important trick in getting rid of the salutation is to actually find out who I am, find out what the transaction is, find a suitable response to the complaint (if any) and take note of my name in any communication.
The best way to do this is to communicate with me direct, not through a form response. In return for that effort, I will reward you with insights that may be valuable to you. And if I really find something worthwhile in the communication, I may make repeat transactions and tell all my friends how responsive the business is.
Probably the quickest way to do this is to pick up the phone and make a call. In a very short time, matters can be discussed and I can complain and get things off my chest.
E-mail may seem the easy way to go, but it has dangers. An e-mail exchange can last far longer than the duration of a call. Time is money, not just for the company responding by e-mail, but also for the ‘customer’.
On the topic of time and money, it might be worth profiling clients as well as their spend. Although it may seem cynical clients are actually best valued for their bottom line impact, and a group of clients who contribute to the bottom line should, from a sound commercial viewpoint, receive more resources to grow the group or retain its members. That sort of cynicism is known as marketing.
If people handling correspondence understand the profile, and the customers, then the correspondence will be all the more effective, and the bottom line will look healthier.
A second point of valuation should lie in the channels of communication. When I communicate, I provide communication details, which can be of value.
These details should be captured because they are valuable. As marketing passes through the era of mass media into mass customisation, individual details are becoming far more valuable. At the very least capture my name and use it on correspondence.
However use it with consideration. I am cruel to spammers. This may seem impossible, but there are perfectly feasible methods of inserting names in almost all correspondence except SMS, where the variability of names makes it difficult. Find a way to call me more than a ‘de-valued customer’ and you begin to unlock my value.