Maslen on Marketing, Style

Why I hate teams

Do you remember your fifth birthday? You, know, the one when your parents bought you that really great toy you’d wanted all year. And there was a card with it. Who signed it? Did it say, “Happy Birthday Darling. Lots of Love, The Parenting Team”?

Of course it didn’t. They put “Lots of love, Mummy and Daddy.”

Well, then, what about your first love letter. After a couple of pages of scented pink (or blue) notepaper, crammed with protestations of eternal love, your inamorata signed off with a jaunty, “All my love forever, The Love-You Team.”

Or that email last week from your mate in marketing inviting you to a birthday drink-up at the Strategy Bar and Grill? Presumably that one was signed, “See you there, The Best Mate Team”? No? You surprise me. NOT!

Hmm. Something of a pattern emerging here. So, then, when we write and receive letters and emails to our friends and family, ie the people we have relationships with, we use our name at the end. So why do so many companies think the way to conclude a “customer service” or “relationship building” email (don’t make me laugh) is with some half-hearted “The XYZ Team”.

In the last week days alone I have received four letters and emails, from various “teams”. And in every case I just canned them.

Teams are impersonal. Teams can’t form meaningful relationships with customers. Teams are anonymous, unaccountable and just plain wrong. Letters and emails signed by teams say one thing loud and clear: “we don’t care about you”. Because if they did, they’d have the wit, or the insight, to realise that people like to receive communications from other people. Individual people.

So here’s what I suggest instead. (If you are one of the perpetrators of “team” emails or letters. Which you aren’t, of course. You aren’t, are you?).

  1. Put the name of the team leader at the foot of the email or letter. Or better still, put the name of someone really important in your company.
  2. Get them to sign the letter. By that I mean scan in their signature. Do not, ever, use one of those cheapo script typefaces.
  3. If you must, set up some sort of inbound mail filter so this high-up doesn’t have to deal with correspondence from their customers. (Actually, I think they should; or at the very least see it, but that’s just me.)

If you want to ensure your letter carries the same sort of emotional freight as those birthday cards, love letters and party emails we all love receiving, go through the text and weed out any references to the reader second-person plural (eg some of you), the reader third person (eg our customers), or the writer first-person plural (eg we).

And forgive me if I raise this hoary old cliché one more time, but never, EVER, start a letter to your customers “As a valued customer.”

And I’m telling you this because

It’s not too difficult to start and then deepen a relationship. Human beings do it all the time,. Some who can’t write AT ALL. Usually you start by finding out someone’s name, Then you use it when you talk to them. And you tell them your name in return. It’s the easiest social contract you’ll ever make.

So why not incorporate a little relationship magic in your customer service emails and letters by doing the same thing. And save your teams for the softball league.

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