How NOT to Write a Letter to a Loyal Customer

November 18, 2016 | By Karin Anell

Laptop Work-2.jpgDear director of customer loyalty at a very large financial institution in America:

I recently received a letter from you, informing me that you were ending the customer loyalty program and replacing it with something else.

I am sorry to say that your letter did nothing to boost my customer loyalty. It made me want to send you to one of Better Communications’ business writing classes. In fact, I could turn that letter into a game of “what’s wrong with this writing” or “find three tactical writing mistakes.”

Why don’t we play that game? Let’s start with the headline.

1. Do not use “we’re ending your privileges program” as a heading

Really? That’s your heading? How do you think it makes me feel, “ending my privileges”? That’s right: surprised and slightly peeved. That was not your intention, I am sure. So how about leading with what you are giving your customers insteadsomething positive, such as

Introducing a new and improved loyalty program.

Find out more about how our new loyalty program works for you.

Instead, you waited until the very end of the letter to tell me about the benefits of the new loyalty program! By then, I may have moved on to other things (or other banks).

The secret to good business writing is to be reader-centered. You have to find out what’s in it for the customer and communicate that clearly and early on! 

2. Don’t tell your customers what you cant do; tell them what you can do

Your letter continued by listing all the benefits I would no longer receive from you. I give you high marks for clarity (nice bullet list) but wasn’t this about customer loyalty? At this point, all I could think was Why are you doing this to me?

Your letter went on to tell me I had to take action to enroll in the new loyalty program. Seriously? First you take away my benefits, without telling me why, and now the onus is on me to sign up for something new? You must really have a great deal of faith in the loyalty of your customers.

3. Don’t come across as verbose, distant and roundabout

This is not about you

You did include your goals with the new loyalty program. But if you want to engage loyal customers, you have to make it about them, not you. Nobody wants to be addressed by an anonymous institution. Customers care very little about you as company; what they really care about is what your company can do for them!

Try phrasing like: 

We want to make sure we create the best benefit for you.  

We want a program that keeps you happy.

Your customers are busy too

Trust me, your customers’ lives are just as hectic as yours. Nobody has the time to waddle through a wall of words. Your letter was longer than an A4 page; cutting it by 50% would’ve made everyone happier and more informed.

Now that we’ve played our little game, I hope you feel energized to start a process of more reader-centered writing. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes! What type of writing would make them feel valued and respected? What type of communication would entice them to stay? That’s your starting point.

Want to learn more about what Better Communications’ strategic business writing workshops can do for your company? Visit us at www.bettercom.com.

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