It’s a rare occasion when I receive a handwritten letter or card in the mail. I’d estimate I get fewer than 10 each year, mostly from family members and close friends around holidays and birthdays. I particularly appreciate the ones from my grandparents, who still send me Halloween greeting cards with cartoonish lettering and ultra-cheesy punchlines that are clearly intended for children. The front of my last card read: “I have this haunting feeling that I’ve wished you Happy Halloween before.” The inside read: “Déjà Boo.” My grandmother then wrote a short note, signing her and my grandfather’s names to it. I kept the card because I’m a sucker for a good pun, and also because throwing away my grandmother’s delicate script would have felt like a criminal thing to do.
But every blue moon, I get a handwritten note that I wasn’t expecting because a holiday was around the corner. I don’t value one handwritten expression over another based on whether I was expecting it or not; the level of sincerity is the only thing that matters. But still, the unexpected ones produce a certain warming effect that the anticipated ones don’t.
I recently received an unexpected thank-you card from the small music studio at which I’ve been taking piano lessons for the past year. After I read the card, I plum forgot that it had been that long. (By my playing, you’d never have been able to tell.) But the music studio was keeping track, and so they sent me this card in recognition of my one-year anniversary.
The message is pretty simple, as you can see. And though it was awfully kind of the studio to call what I had been making “music,” the words themselves weren’t what I appreciated most. I appreciated that the studio thought enough of my patronage to acknowledge it with what’s considered an unconventional expression of gratitude in the year 2016. I had received physical mail from the studio before; it was usually the latest newsletter it sends to students. That’s what I expected when I pulled the envelope from my mailbox. But opening it revealed a pleasant surprise – one that compelled me to keep it in the same pile as my grandparents’ cheesy Halloween greeting cards.
Sincere, handwritten expressions of gratitude are a lost art in today’s increasingly digital and impersonal world. That’s nothing you didn’t already know. I only shared this anecdote as a reminder of how a personal touch can go a long way toward building customer loyalty. The next time you’re looking for a way to set your business apart from a competitor, remember that the ink still has yet to fade from the oldest page in the customer-service playbook.