What Ever Happened to Personalized Service?
By Angela Wu
If you've ever written to a company that over-uses
automation or form letters, you'll understand the feeling
of teeth-gritting *frustration* with canned responses that
don't even begin to answer your question.
It's especially aggravating when you just can't seem to
find a real human being to talk to. Inquiry after inquiry
is greeted by an automated robot.
Yet more and more online businesses are using autoresponders
to save time. And I can see why; they're wonderful tools.
These special email addresses can be set up to send out
'pre-written' emails and save you from a lot of manual
For example, autoresponders can be used to deliver
advertising rates, email courses, reports, free chapters
or trials or your eBook or software. You can also use
them to send out your sales letter and a series of
automated follow-up messages.
They're extremely versatile ... and a great way to free
up your time, keep in touch with your prospects, build
credibility, and increase sales.
But autoresponders are only *tools*. They cannot - and
should not - replace the personal touch that only a real,
live human can provide.
Face it: the Internet is a vast, cold place. No one
likes to feel like 'just another faceless entity'. Here
are a few situations where a personalized email can work
1. Your Prospect Sends You a Specific Question.
If your prospect opens up your autoresponder message and
hits 'reply', that reply should go directly to *you*.
Take a few minutes and specifically address your prospect's
question or concern. She's interested enough to write to
you; shouldn't you be eager for the opportunity to convert
her interest into a sale - and possibly a loyal customer?
2. Thank-You Letters.
Oh, I understand that businesses that process a lot of
online orders cannot possibly send every single customer
a personalized thank-you note. It's just plain impossible.
However, small tokens of appreciation can go a long ways.
For example, send a quick thank-you note to your repeat
Another time you want to send a personal thank-you letter
is when you receive a testimonial. You've obviously done
a great job with your product! Why not use the opportunity
to build customer loyalty? A simple, personal note
reinforces her positive feelings about her purchase -
and about *you*. Remember that word-of-mouth advertising
is some of the best free promotion available ... !
3. Replies to Comments and Suggestions.
It is absolutely maddening to write to someone with
constructive feedback and receive a response like,
Thank you for your comments. We appreciate each
and every one of them.
Customer Care Staff'
To me, this shows a distinct and utter *lack* of regard
for the customer.
Address the comment or suggestion directly. Call the
customer by her name. Sign your own. In other words,
treat her like a real *person*! It's so simple, and
I can assure you that your customer will appreciate
4. Requests for Help or Joint Ventures.
Part of your success online depends on your ability to
build relationships -- not just with your customers, but
with your 'online colleagues': other webmasters or editors
within your own niche.
A few seconds of your time could mean the difference
between a joint venture proposal that gets a response,
and one that's ignored. Instead of sending out a generic
email that says,
'Dear Webmaster, I was just visiting your site and
was very impressed. Would you be interested in a
... try something more personal, such as,
'Hi Heather, I was just browsing yourdomain.com and
saw that you offer international gourmet coffees
(I especially love your sampler pack!). I also run
a website for coffee lovers, and was wondering if
you'd be interested in a joint venture...'
Okay, so maybe I'm 'old-fashioned' when it comes to service.
But automation, to me, has its limits. Nothing can ever
take the place of prompt, personal service! Try it -
you'll be pleasantly surprised at how many people genuinely
Angela is the editor of Online
Business Basics, a practical, down-to-earth guide to building an
Internet business on a beginner's budget. If you enjoyed this article, you'll love
the book! Visit http://www.onlinebusinessbasics.com.
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