I’ve been a consumer a lot longer than I’ve worked in communications. But how I react to communications I receive as a consumer has remained constant. I’ve always evaluated them based on how I felt after reading one. Did it make me feel glad to do business with the company in question? Or did it make me instantly hate the company and vow never to patronize them again? (Most fall somewhere in the middle.)
As I previously posted, the horrible communications I received from beauty retailer Ulta killed my longstanding relationship with them. Although I regularly receive error-riddled and/or strategically unsound emails from businesses, Ulta’s were beyond bad, falling under the category of insulting.
Yesterday, I received a rare treat in my inbox: A really good CRM email. I love it when I get one of these, because my consumer side and my writer side both get to feel valued. I feel validated as a consumer and, at the same time, I also feel a little more hopeful that I won’t end up living underneath a freeway overpass due to the death of the English language.
The email came from Häagen-Dazs in response to a form I submitted through their website to express my sadness over the discontinuation of their Tart Natural Frozen Yogurt. (That stuff was sooooooooo good.)
An ideal response would have said that millions of other customers had written with the same complaint, and they were bringing back the product. That’s not what their email said, of course. But what it did say was just as good:
“Thank you for your email letting us know of your disappointment in being unable to find Häagen-Dazs® Frozen Yogurt at your local market. I realize how frustrating it can be when you can’t find your favorite dessert treats.
As you know, this particular product line has been discontinued. Each year, we evaluate our current flavors and products, adding some new ones while discontinuing those that aren’t selling as well. We listen closely to our consumers and if we hear from enough shoppers who share your disappointment, we will certainly consider bringing this product back into our line-up.
We appreciate your taking the time to contact our company to let us know of your flavor preference.”
With this one simple email, Häagen-Dazs just won a customer for life.
What did they do that is so amazing? For those not in the field, I’ll spell it out:
1. “Thank you for your email letting us know of your disappointment in being unable to find Häagen-Dazs® Frozen Yogurt at your local market.”
They thanked me. Always #1 in customer communications. Thank the customer for being your customer. They also acknowledged that they actually read my complaint and understood what it was about. I don’t know how many times I’ve sent a similar comment, only to receive an improper response like, “We’re delighted to know you like our product. Thanks for your business.” Um, no. I DID like your product, but you’re not making it anymore, and that means you don’t have my business.
2. “I realize how frustrating it can be when you can’t find your favorite dessert treats.”
They acknowledged my pain point: frustration. And the use of “I” here instead of “we” adds a personal element that lends believability to the statement. It’s easier for me to “suspend disbelief,” so to speak, and accept that this communication was written to me, by one person. Nice touch. (This stuff does not happen by accident. It’s this kind of attention to detail that you’re paying for when you hire a pro to write for you.)
3. “As you know, this particular product line has been discontinued. Each year, we evaluate our current flavors and products, adding some new ones while discontinuing those that aren’t selling as well.”
They explained why I can’t find the product anymore. I didn’t already know the product had been discontinued, and I thought that assumption was a little odd, but no biggie, because I know now. And they didn’t just tell me it was discontinued — they explained WHY it’s been discontinued. Sure, I could figure it out. But stating it outright leaves nothing to question, and they have just added transparency and honesty to the values I associate with their brand.
4. “We listen closely to our consumers and if we hear from enough shoppers who share your disappointment, we will certainly consider bringing this product back into our line-up.”
This statement lets me know that feedback like mine counts at Häagen-Dazs; that they keep track of it, rather than just tossing it. It also gave me a little hope that the product could come back.
I’ve had other favorite products discontinued, and the companies involved merely stated that it was gone, without any indication that they cared whether their customers wanted it back or not. Bath & Body Works is notorious for that. They will discontinue products without even informing store staff, so they simply disappear, never to return. Complain, and what you get in response is, “Sorry. Why don’t you try our new Roses & Dirt fragrance?” If I wanted to smell like a funeral home, I wouldn’t be complaining to you for taking away my Malibu Heat!
Nitpick: “Line-up” should be one word with no hyphen, but at this point, they get a free pass.
5. “We appreciate your taking the time to contact our company to let us know of your flavor preference.”
Once again, they thank me, and acknowledge the source of my discontent. They let me know that my feedback is welcome.
The whole email is loaded with understanding, acknowledgement and appreciation. And it’s nice and short. Packs a whole lot of punch with just a few well-written lines. Pretty close to perfect.
The other Häagen-Dazs flavor I like is Rum Raisin. Make no mistake — if they had sent me an Ulta-style response, I’d give it up in an instant. But since they did the exact opposite, I want to share that this particular flavor is perfect on warm pumpkin pie.