The Case for Courtesy

"That was really nice of them to give you that $25 dollars for your birthday, wasn't it?" Mother to son.

"Half way to that new video game. Yessssss!" Son beaming with acquisition glee.

"You did send a thank you note, right? I left one out for you." Mother with brow raised.

"Um ... not yet. How 'bout I just activate my autoresponder ... or do a free e-card?" Son grins sheepishly and hopes Mother gets the autoresponder joke.

"Not on your life! Here's a pen. You know where the stamps are! Just do it."

It's not just good manners. It's not just pro forma. Courtesy counts, whether it's between relatives, friends, associates, and yes, even businesses and their customers. The little niceties in life, sincerely felt and expressed, can make a world of difference.

See what one of our newest partners has to say on the subject.

The case for courtesy

The web allows anonymous behavior and with it has come a big decline in basic courtesy. There is no reason why we can't maintain personal integrity and good manners, if for no better reason then the fact that research shows that it is also good business.

Courtesy in business is not mistaken for "desperate" or "easy". Instead, it proclaims a professional, service-oriented company and demonstrates that you really do care about your customers. In my experience with guerilla marketing, few things helped us build community and loyalty more then courtesy and consideration, and courtesy costs little or nothing.

If you sent a gift worth a few hundred dollars and didn't receive a note, would you think as well of the recipient as if you had received a thoughtful note? Clearly we should give gifts without expectation of appreciation, but we are, after all, human and everyone likes to be acknowledged and thanked.

Don't feel constrained to use email. We keep a stack of beautiful museum art cards and when someone deserves a "thank you", we send them a card with an image we think they will like. We chose a beautiful card because it is much harder to throw out a piece of art. In my early years as a road salesman, I used to pride myself on the number of my cards I saw sitting on people's desks or tacked to the walls. The notes were short and handwritten, and the longer they stayed around the better our branding. I still come across people who remember that small thoughtfulness even if they long forgot whey we sent it.

Don't just send a mechanical confirmation email. Studies show that a personal email follow up increases conversion and loyalty significantly. We rate the cost of acquiring a new email signup or customer in excess of $50. If someone gave you $50 wouldn't you want to thank them with more then a robotic reply? We try to reply promptly and personally and even take a few minutes to look at their site and comment positively on it in the email. Let them know you did more then just hit reply.

There are plenty of obvious reasons, to take the time to "touch" an individual customer with a "thank you" but don't overlook:

  • An important referral

  • A newsletter signup

  • A link exchange

  • Their first, second or third purchase

  • Running your press release (this has earned me reams of good press. How often does an editor receive a thank you for running PR, you will be remembered!)

  • An endorsement or good product review

  • A new affiliation or partnership

Another area where research shows courtesy improves conversion is in error messages. When people fail to fill out "required" fields properly, responding with a gentle and courteous error message increase conversions. Messages like: "X is missing" loses more signups then "Sorry, we were unable to process your form without X. Would you please reenter it so we can send you Y?"

Clearly the web allows anonymity and social ineptness. It also insures that if you use good manners and courtesy you will stand out in a world of less attentive people. Next time you leave your computer screen, smile at a few people you don't know and as some of them smile back, you'll remember that gracious courtesy makes the world a little better.

You will also find it will directly impact your bottom line. Courtesy has been called the lubricant of civilization, but we know it also greases the wheels of industry. Whatever your motivation, it's a win-win for everyone.

Volume 140: 10/1/06

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