I manage a customer service outsourcing company. And in my industry, as in pretty much all others, the trends are digital, digital, digital. We've shifted from phone to email to live chat and social media. We've automated as much as possible. And we've started to incorporate artificial intelligence.
So why am I convinced that direct mail is perfectly positioned to become the next big customer experience channel? Snail mail has become synonymous with junk mail; endless, annoying flyers sent to "current residents" who throw them out immediately. And that's exactly the point.
Think about receiving a card from a loved one, or invitation from a friend; a piece of personalized, thoughtful mail in a pile of junk is a welcome surprise everyone enjoys. For companies, direct mail offers a way to stand out -- and build customer relationships. Sure, you can build a following on Instagram. But nothing beats a real, offline relationship for establishing brand loyalty and trust.
Luckily, a variety of digital platforms make sending snail mail easier than ever. Here are a few examples of how we've seen companies use this increasingly important channel.
Send physical badges or stickers
It's fairly simple and inexpensive to print and send stickers, tokens, or badges to your customers to reward them for loyalty. At Peak Support, we send out thousands of stickers and tokens each week on behalf of one of our clients, as a reward for customers who achieve certain levels on their platform.
Another company doing this well is Trade Hounds, an online professional network for construction workers and other people working in commercial trades. Trade Hounds sends out stickers that members can put on their helmets.
Stickers and badges are an inexpensive way to engage with your customers, increase brand awareness, and drive offline conversations about your product or service. You can surprise customers with a small, branded token of appreciation, or you can make it clear at the point of purchase that more sales equals more rewards.
Send handwritten thank you notes
I recently bought a couch from the online furniture retailer Joybird, and I was amazed to receive a personalized, handwritten thank you note in the mail. It was a simple touch that probably took just a couple minutes for the team, but it went a long way to humanize the brand.
This is particularly important for digital businesses, and particularly for those that sell high-value goods. Customer loyalty is hard to come by, especially when you don't meet your customers face to face. I'm much more likely to make a large purchase like furniture or appliances if I have an actual relationship with one of the employees. It makes it harder to say "no" to a sale and makes me feel like someone will be accountable if something goes awry.
If a handwritten note sounds too challenging, you could still send a personalized card or postcard with a service like Postagram. Upload a photo of your team smiling and waving, and add a short note of thanks.
Choose and send personalized gifts
Think about the sales messages that bombard your customers all day through email, Facebook, and every other online platform they use. A personalized gift can go a long way to separate your message from the pack.
We serve several e-commerce clients, so we love sending their products to other customers. The recipient gets an awesome, high-end gift which just happens to promote the fact that we do business with a lot of stellar companies.
If coming up with gift ideas isn't your forte, you might find some great ideas on platforms like Alyce or Greetabl.
Send great swag
Ok, there's nothing innovative about swag. But if you do it well, it works. We start planning our end-of-year swag as early as August, because we want to send meaningful gifts our clients will actually use. We package them nicely in tissue paper, so opening the box actually feels like getting a gift. We create cards with team photos and draft a handwritten note in each.
Two years ago, American Apparel had recently gone bankrupt and was only available in wholesale. So we sent American Apparel sweatshirts, figuring clients might be excited to get one. It worked, and our clients actually wear our sweatshirts.
When clients wear our sweatshirts or use our water bottles, it deepens our connection with them in a small but meaningful way. It also potentially increases our brand recognition within the companies we serve.
So, is customer support coming full circle as snail mail makes a come back? Well, digital channels aren't going anywhere. But snail mail offers companies the opportunity to engage customers in a more thoughtful, personal way.
Originally published on Inc.
Illustration by Rhea Avanceña