Loyalty Today


What’s old is new again: The handwritten note

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Retro isn’t only in fashion on the catwalk, but also in regards to customer service.  Earlier this month, wireless carrier Sprint kicked off an initiative in which employees regularly take the time out of their schedule to send handwritten thank you notes to customers.  The company has sent close to 500,000 handwritten notes thus far, which not only thank customers for their loyalty to Sprint, but also contain an offer of 25% off of any accessory just for bringing the handwritten note into a retail Sprint store.

Handwritten notes have been a staple of the luxury industry for some time now, as referenced in the Loyalty Management article published earlier this year titled “How Luxury Brands Can Reinvent the Customer Experience”.  In this piece, VIPdesk’s SVP of Sales & Marketing Mark Robeson referenced the use of handwritten correspondence by luxury brands including Fendi and Montblanc.  This type of handwritten communication is a proven method of developing a bond between a brand and its customers.  Personally, I have received handwritten notes from small local retailers such as jewelry stores, however I was surprised to see not only a non-luxury brand but a telecommunications provider embracing the power of personal correspondence.

Sprint’s commitment to personal outreach was introduced by the company’s CEO Dan Hesse, upon an employee’s suggestion.  The campaign has been embraced by the entire Sprint team from the top down—not only has Hesse has been sending out notes himself, but the company has also implemented “Thank You Thursdays” on which all employees are asked to write at least five notes.

Until about six months ago, I had been a Sprint customer for many years (as an aside, I changed providers merely for the convenience gained by joining my husband on a family account with another provider, it had nothing to do with Sprint’s performance/service).  I knew that the company was discontinuing its customer loyalty program, Sprint Premiere, at the end of 2011 and feared that to be an indication of a decreased corporate focus on customer relationship management.  Instead, it appears that just the opposite is the case and I applaud Sprint for their commitment to this personal form of customer outreach (especially given that this is a company that I would expect would be promoting communication via channels more in line with their core business model—phone, e-mail, text message, etc.).

When I think about the time that it would take me to write five legible thank-you notes (reportedly Sprint advises employees that thank you notes should be written slowly and legibly), and then look at the overall time commitment that it would take to write nearly half of a million legible thank-you notes, I am impressed.  To me, this shows that Sprint realizes the long-term value of a personal relationship between customer and brand.

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Comments 4 comments

  1. Vladimir Poletaev- VIP wrote: (on 08/24/2012 @ 1:26 pm)

    And here I thought that it was only me. I love receiving letters and postcards in old fashioned way - hand written. It shows that the person who sends it truly cares and takes time to invest in our relationship. It is easy to keep in touch and be engaged via e-mail or text or chat or multiple social media. But nothing impresses more than a quality of a well written personal note. Thank you for sharing Linda!

  2. Mark Johnson wrote: (on 08/24/2012 @ 2:04 pm)

    This was quite a timely piece. The CTO of my last company always sent personal hand signed letters. I always marveled at the time invested, yet I picked up the practice and was AMAZED how it influenced / impacted the sales process. It changed the prospect / contact to a much deeper / personal friend. I have gotten away from that recently, but will refocus on it thanks to this article. Yet I also believe that when promoting Loyalty 360, the email and PDF’s are nice, but a personalized packet of magazines and white papers is a much stronger sales tool. Creates unique engagement that an email cannot.

  3. Linda Dickerhoof Sperling wrote: (on 08/26/2012 @ 9:45 am)

    Thanks, Vladmir and Mark, for your comments on this piece!  I am always impressed by a brand that takes the time to send more than a marketing piece.  For instance, Veterinary Pet Insurance just sent my dog (to my attention, of course) a birthday card in the mail.  There was no incentive to renew my membership in her birthday month for a discount, no coupon to incent me to make a purchase, no reminder of how much money they save me on vet bills…just a cute card wishing my dog a happy birthday.  I thought that it was not only adorable, but I really appreciated that they didn’t try to tie in the adorable gesture with promoting additional spend.

  4. Marti Beller wrote: (on 08/27/2012 @ 12:02 pm)

    I love this topic.  I think the real commentary here is about the care that it takes to develop real and enduring relationships.  A handwritten note goes beyond normal email correspondence and creates that “surprise and delight” moment that we are all striving for in our businesses.  For me, even when I write a thank you in email, I believe in taking time to convey a sense of intentionality around creating a deeper relationship that transcends the hundred of interactions each of us have each day.

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