Little things like a handwritten note can make a big difference in customer experience


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Earlier this year, Ricky Choi & Phil Moldavski blazed a path. With the aid of Kickstarter, they launched Nice Laundry. The duo met in DC while working in marketing at Living Social. Obsessed by designer socks, yet appalled by their price tag (upwards of $40), they embarked on a mission to refresh the sad sock drawers of this world. There had to be a better way. Here is their Kickstarter video:

Was their Kickstarter successful? I’d say so. With over 2,000 backers, the team exceeded goal by 397%.

Nice Laundry was brought to my attention by my good friend and fellow CX professional Karl Sharicz. Here’s Karl’s N/L story in his own words:

“I wanted to share a holiday story that falls right into the “purple” zone. I happened to see an ad come across my Facebook account (as I often do) and the company was called Nice Laundry.  Curious as to what a company with a name like that could possibly be selling, I clicked the link.

nice laundry socksThey sell socks—and not just any socks—really fun and bright colors that make a definite fashion statement. More than that, they recycle socks as well. They send a prepaid shipping label with every order to make it easy for people to send in their old socks which are subsequently reused and repurposed and or converted into recycled fibers all at no cost to the customer.

A virtuous recycle from Nice Laundry

I’m so impressed and I like them so much I show my wife who then secretly buys me a set of their socks for Christmas. The attached photo shows the socks, the packaging, and a personal note of thanks from Ricky and Phil, the owners who started the company, one of which filled the order that my wife called in.

nice laundry socks note

You can see the bright colors of my new set of socks plus their clever packaging as well.  If that wasn’t enough, my wife also gets a free pair of socks for herself just for ordering them for me.  This is a purple goldfish story for sure.  I’m wearing high boots during the winter so most people can’t see my socks, but I do go out of my way to mention Nice Laundry and their unique marketing of an item of clothing that is largely otherwise boring.”

The Importance of Follow up

The little things like a handwritten note can make the biggest difference. “Follow up” is the seventh type of Purple Goldfish. It’s the expression of “thanks” to a customer. A personal gesture that conveys both appreciation and acknowledgement. Here are a handful of additional examples from What’s Your Purple Goldfish – 12 Ways to Win Customers and Influence Word of Mouth:

#1. The power of the pen… and some stickers


#770 in Project comes courtesy of Gary Vaynerchuk’s and his book, Thank You Economy.

Gary talks about Wufoo, the online HTML form developer sends handwritten thank you notes, sometimes crafted out of construction paper and decorated with stickers:

#2. A simple way to “Hug Your Customers”

#805 was taken from a tweet by Annette Franz @annettefranz

Annette cites 1to1 media’s post on Mitchells by Ginger Conlon:

When was the last time you personally thanked a customer? Sent a hand-written note? Last year Jack Mitchell wrote 1,793 personal notes to customers of his retail stores. That’s about five notes a day, every day.

jack mitchell thank you

Mitchell is CEO of The Mitchells Family of Stores, which owns several high-end retail stores, including Marsh, Mitchells, and Richards–and is author of Hug Your Customers. He spoke at the Conference Board Customer Experience Leadership Conference about connecting with customers on a more personal level.

Every touchpoint, every interaction, every detail–these are all opportunities to connect with customers in way that creates engagement and builds retention. “It can be something as simple as a smile,” Mitchell said, “It’s about making a human connection. Connections are ‘hugs.’ And hugs create loyalty.”

So do great people, he said. Great product is a given; personalized service is where you can really make a difference. So the company looks for people who are honest, positive, competent, and nice, and have a passion to listen, learn, and grow. The retailer retains and engages it employees by using them in catalogs and ads, and by providing them with the product and customer information they need to deliver outstanding service. Also, there’s no commission, which encourages collaboration. “It [all] helps to increase their commitment to customer service,” he said.

A technology backbone is the third leg of the customer experience stool. The company has tracked every purchase by SKU since 1989, and as a result, has a comprehensive database of customers’ product and channel preferences–and knows exactly who its top customers are, by spend. The company uses the information to create personalized mailings, send relevant event invitations (e.g., trunk shows), and the like.

This blended high-touch, high-tech approach helps keep customers right where Mitchell wants them–at center of the company’s universe–because customer centricity, he said, is profitable. In fact, 72 percent of the retailer’s merchandise is sold at full price. “Focus on what’s most important,” he said. “Customers.”

#3. A little thoughtful personal touch from the Captain

#710 and #711 in the Project is taken from a blogpost by Ivan Misner:

In Ivan’s words:

“Long lines, deteriorating service, flight attendants grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit handle to slide out onto the tarmac are part of our vision of airlines these days.

However, I had an experience last week that was truly amazing in this day and age.

My wife and I were flying on United from LAX to New Orleans for a business conference. Before we were about to land, Rebecca, the flight attendant, handed me a business card from the Captain. His name is Patrick Fletcher. On the back of Captain Fletcher’s card was a handwritten note that said:

Flight 139, January 19, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Misner,

It’s great to have you both with us today – Welcome! I hope you have a great visit to New Orleans – we really appreciate your business!


Pat Fletcher

Rebecca (who was a great flight attendant, by the way), told me the Captain wrote these notes to everyone who was a member of their premier level frequent flier club as well as all the 1st class passengers. On this day, that was around 12 people. She said he is great to fly with because he really treats the passengers AND the crew very well, mentioning that he had brought scones to all of them that morning.

I fly A LOT. In the last 20 years, I’ve probably traveled on over 800 flights all around the world. In that time, I’ve never received a personal note from the Captain.

Entrepreneurs and major corporations alike can learn from this story. Personal service that goes above and beyond the call of duty, can generate great word of mouth.

Captain Fletcher – my hat’s off to you. Well done. I think this is a great example of how one person in a really large company can make a difference in a customer’s attitude. Your note was creative and appreciated. I hope to be flying with you again.”

#4. The Follow Up call is a little thing that makes a big difference

#365 in the Project was suggested by Barry Dalton of Customer Service Stories

rite aid

Barry referenced a post from Kristina Evey. Here is an excerpt from Kristina:

“I love being a mom more than anything else in the whole world, even chocolate. But, one of the things I dread as a mom is getting that phone call from school informing me that one of my children has “Pinkeye.” So, last Tuesday, I picked up my daughter from school and headed to the doctor’s office for the diagnosis that I already knew was coming and then to the drug store to pick up the prescription drops.

Now, putting drops into the eyes of a six year old is no easy feat. Especially when that six year old has decided that she is a drama queen and is going to milk the situation for all it is worth. When I picked up the drops, the pharmacist at Rite Aid suggested some methods for administering the drops that might make it easier and less stressful. Nonetheless, the suggested methods were just as torturous as me literally sitting on my daughter and squirting the drops in her eyes.

However, after two days of drops every four hours, my daughter and I came to a point where we did try the pharmacist’s suggestion and were able to administer the drops with no drama at all.

So, this is a pretty mundane situation. Nothing really noteworthy.

Until………. we get the call from the pharmacist two days later asking how my daughter’s eye infection is doing and if we had any problems administering the eye drops. No, this wasn’t a call from the doctor’s office. It was the pharmacist from Rite Aid delivering excellent customer service. She was taking the time and interest to call and see how the treatment was working, if we had encountered any problems, and if we had any questions she could answer. She was connecting with me, the customer. The business transaction, for all practical purposes, was complete. She was following up to nurture the relationship. That’s effectively managing the customer experience. Now, they may have designed this into the process at Rite Aid. But that’s the point – they design a positive customer experience into their plans.

This really might not seem like a big deal, until you think about how often this doesn’t happen. How many times do you receive a follow up phone call from the provider of the product or service you purchased from to see if there was anything they could help you with? I’ll bet it’s less often than you think.

The noticeable thing is that it wasn’t the physician who treated her, or even that office. I paid them much more for the physician’s time and diagnosis than I did the drug store for the drops.

Customer satisfaction comes from the extra step that we put on to our delivery of service. I was happy just to leave the pharmacy with the drops I needed and the fact that they were nice and pleasant to me. I’m delighted that they called to follow up. Even though I know I may pay a little more to go to Rite Aid, the fact that I received that follow up call tells me they care about my business.”

Takeaway: We’ve seen the follow up call cited a couple of times in the Project. It’s a smart move for the following reasons:

  1. Demonstrates you care – The transaction isn’t over when money is exchanged. It shows the customer that you are concerned about their satisfaction.
  2. Low cost – This is something that can be done by the pharmacist or business owner during a lull in the ordinary course of business.
  3. Troubleshooting – The vast majority of people will not complain. Following up allows you to correct any service issues and extend the life of your customer relationships.

#5. A little proactive extra from Shui Tea

#593 was submitted to the Purple Goldfish Project via tweet by Paul Tracy. In Paul’s words:

shui teaOK, I have to admit that I’ve been a fan of Shui Tea for some time. I don’t even remember how I stumbled across his website or why I made my first order from Shui Tea. Maybe it was the subtly irreverent attitude of the purveyor that just meshed with my personality or the product descriptions on the website.

Regardless, I’ve been really happy with the quality of the tea that I’ve ordered from him and have placed a few orders. I’m relatively new to tea, but have been recording my tea reviews on this website called Steepster for a few months. I tend to be brutally truthful and in all honesty, I have really enjoyed everything I have ordered from Shui Tea.

Today, I received an e-mail from the owner of Shui Tea that had, in part, the following: “I wanted to thank you for sharing so much about Shui Tea on Steepster and online. I just put a $10 store credit on your account to use if you order again. No expiration, and feel free to use it anytime and with other coupons you might see in e-mails or on Twitter.” I took advantage of the generous offer immediately because there were already a number of new items from Shui Tea that I wanted to try.

The whole purpose of this post is to point out what a customer service and marketing genius the owner of Shui Tea has revealed himself to be. I was already a devoted fan of his brand. Through a very short and simple, yet personal, contact he has secured a customer for life. If there are ever any issues in the future (which I don’t expect but can happen) I’ll be more than willing to forgive them given the treatment he’s afforded me to date.”

In business, providing superb customer service and delivering lagniappe is like putting money into the bank. You are building up credit with your customers. As Paul eluded to above, if and when an issue arises you will be given leeway due to the goodwill you’ve earned.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – The poster children for Nice Laundry are Ted Rubin and Ric Dragon. These two digital thought leaders and authors were stylish in the sock department way before the genesis of N/L. Here’s an interview with Ted at SXSW. He dishes on ugly socks, personal brands and his 2013 release, Return on Relationship:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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