The Power of the Pen

by Chris Bjorklund

A handwritten note is still an effective way to show your appreciation for good service. Photo: CC0 Public Domain ©2018

When was the last time you took the time to write a hardcopy letter of commendation after receiving outstanding service? I always respond to consumer surveys and offer feedback. I’ve written reviews on TripAdvisor and Airbnb. Recently, I received such good service over the phone that I asked to talk to the representative’s supervisor so I could share my appreciation for the employee’s patience and professionalism. But writing an actual letter and mailing it? It’s been a long, long time.

When my husband told me about his interaction with one of the California State Automobile Association’s (CSAA) field offices over dinner one night, we both agreed that the employee should be recognized for her effort. Instead of making a call, writing a review online, sending an email or returning with a Starbucks gift card, my husband opted to write an “old school” letter:

I am writing in praise of your staff member, Ms. [Last Name]. I came in to your offices a couple of weeks ago with a complicated transaction: a two-step transfer of vehicle ownership from the leasing company to the lessee organization that I run, and then to me as the purchaser of the auto upon the end of the lease from my organization. It was very confusing and everything had to be perfect. Your employee showed thorough knowledge of the process, was tremendously patient and enabled me to get the paperwork done with a minimum of confusion. After she found that the leasing company made a mistake on the VIN, she was still able to help me get all the paperwork in order with a second visit. Today, I received the pink slip proving the transfer went through. I just want you to know that dedicated, knowledgeable, and patient employees make a huge difference in how CSAA is perceived and valued by your members. Please add this letter to her employment file as I hope she is appropriately valued by the organization.”

I especially like the last line. A customer’s impression of a company is heavily influenced by the individuals who help them. When employees take ownership of customer satisfaction, it’s a true “win-win” for both businesses and consumers.