We are not loyal. We don’t want a relationship with you. And no, you don’t have permission to chat.

Customer loyalty is a term I have a problem with. Companies use it with abandon. They seem to think if only they have good enough offers, or more points to collect, we’ll be loyal forevermore .

Loving shopping isn’t loyalty

But there are very few companies or brands that people are truly loyal to. We’re loyal to our family and our friends. We might be loyal to our employers, if they look after us. But as much as we might love shopping somewhere, and visit a lot, it’s still transactional. It’s not loyalty.

Customer comms – formal or chatty?

Researching customer letters with E.ON a few years ago, we found customers disliked the very informal and formal letters, preferring something in the middle. The feedback was clear – utilities are a boring, necessary purchase, and we’re not interested in being friends with our suppliers. I think that goes for most industries. Customers don’t want another relationship – it’s hard enough keeping up with the people we really like.

Some companies are getting it right

Last week one company shook my cynicism, though. I ordered a jacket from Snow and Rock on Black Friday (twice, as it happens), and got an email two weeks later. It said the jacket was out of stock and the email’s tone of voice wasn’t quite as warm as I’d have done it.

Well looked after

As you’d expect, I was disappointed. This was going to be my Christmas present to myself. And then it wasn’t. But then the email put me at ease. Snow and Rock offered so many options that I knew they wanted me to end up happy. And I am. I still don’t have my jacket, but the charming Isabelle rang the other day, offering yet more alternatives, and I’ve re-ordered.

Here’s the email:

Customer service tone of voice snow and rock

Snow and rock customer service tone of voice

Dear Ben,

Unfortunately one of the items from your order is out of stock with the supplier – the Atom LT Jacket.

However they have come back to us with some alternative colours in the same style:

Atom LT Jacket – blue or red (please see attachment)

If you are happy with any of the alternative colours, please let us know and we can amend your order and honour the original price.

Should the choice of colours not be suitable, we would be glad to offer you the same percentage discount (37%) on your choice of a full priced jacket.

However as an alternative jacket, I would recommend the Arc’Teryx Mens Proton LT.

Please see the link below

https://www.snowandrock.com/p/arc-teryxmens-proton-lt-jacket-A1213369.157.html

We have this jacket in stock in our warehouse in black in a medium.

In the event that you would prefer us to cancel and refund your order, we would like to offer you a £25 gift card as a gesture of goodwill.

Many apologies for the inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience.

Kind Regards,

Isabelle

A slight downer

Then they let themselves down a bit with the automated confirmation, saying:

Although it has not be possible to send your complete order at this time the following items have now been despatched to:

It left me confused. It’s not till much later the email explains that the other jacket is coming later. And the cold, passive tone conflicts with Isabelle’s empathy:

it has not be possible could be we’ve not been able

have now been despatched maybe we’ve sent

But overall my experience has been great. I’m not sure I’d call it loyalty, but I’ll remember the Snow and Rock looked after me, despite the cock up. And that’ll encourage me to shop with them again.

Head of tone of voice

Snow and Rock, please promote Isabelle to ‘head of tone of voice’ immediately, and get her to rewrite all of your automated emails. And if you’d like a little help to improve your customer experience even further, check out our thoughts on tone of voice, and drop me a line.