Thursday, September 5, 2013

Be consistent in your love letters

When my first daughter was born I wrote her little love letters almost weekly for the first year. I wrote about my dreams for her, my pregnancy, her adorable father and all the cute little things she was doing and at what stage. After her first year had passed I compiled the many many pages of letters into a photo album with all her first year’s photos. Well – 6 albums actually (I’m a bit of a prolific shutterbug).

A well-meaning mum said to me wisely upon viewing my efforts, “you’ve made a rod for your own back now” indicating that I’d need to put in the same effort for any future children. And now having had my second child, I understand what she meant. While I have the same desire to write to my new daughter, the frequency is harder to keep up due to numerous reasons including illness and chasing an active 2.5 year old around!

I will keep writing, but part of me hopes my gorgeous second daughter doesn’t decide to do a page count!

In thinking about it today it reminded me a company we deal with at work. There aren’t a lot of options for who we choose in their field and I’m neither overly happy nor disappointed with their service – but – about three or four years ago they did something that wowed me. They sent our office the coolest Christmas gift. It wasn’t overly expensive, but it was just super fun and creative. I talked about this gift to my family and friends. In the office we all fought over what part of it we’d each get to have. During the year I must say I actively watched our usage of the company far more closely. And when the next Christmas came around, I eagerly anticipated what they’d do to match or top the previous year’s awesome effort.

Only they didn’t. They didn’t top it, they didn’t match it… they didn’t actually deliver it.  I was sad. I was so sad (much to the embarrassment of my business partner) that after 2 years of no gift I asked some reps from the company at a trade show what we’d done to go off the Christmas gift list. They just chuckled (clearly thinking I was having a joke).

They’d set an expectation within me of something creative and fun at Christmas time – and once they’d set it (in such a memorable way) I missed it. Does it mean we don’t use them anymore? Of course not. But do I pay as much attention to our usage of the company in the years since – I don’t.

Once you set a standard – it’s hard to go back on it without it having some measurable effect on the impact of your brand.

I used to publish a weekly newsletter from my blog and still use the website that managed my database and sent the e-newsletter for some other business ventures. For years I’d referred people to them and when those people signed up to create their own mailouts, the company would send me a quarterly referral cheque. Until the company sold and they decided they didn’t want to do that anymore. Now the cheque wasn’t going to swell my bank balance significantly, but the letter I got from them stating that it wasn’t viable for them to continue paying referrers was harshly worded and cancelled payments without notice. Do I care to refer to them anymore? Not so much. Would I have referred to them in the first place without the reward for referring – I don’t doubt I would have. I only miss the referral fee because I was used to getting it.

I only miss what I had grown accustomed to. This for me is an important lesson to remember as I’m all for constant innovation especially in a service capacity – but I need to remember that if it’s not sustained, it can send the wrong message to my clients who may have been just as happy without it in the first place.

PS – I’ve long been an advocate of the book “The 5 love languages” – I’d strongly recommend it as a read for anyone wanting to improve their relationship BUT also for anyone who wants to understand why the client gift’s, rewards and thank yous won’t have the same impact on every person as it would on you.

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