direct mail, Marketing, USPS

Direct Mail Design: This Never Gets Old

Did you know that the USPS Office of the Inspector General performs a customer satisfaction survey every year? News to me, but why not?

The results are available for viewing below.

But the stunning and head-spinning discovery about direct mail design is worth noting. In the study’s own words, verbatim:

“In FY 2016, it sent out more than 5.7 million survey invitations in the form of a two-sided postcard that invites customers to take the survey online or by phone. These invitations resulted in approximately 71,000 completed surveys, a 1% response rate.

“In order to increase response rates, the Postal Service tested two other survey invitations. An oversized postcard did not make a significant difference, but a sealed envelope with an invitation on letterhead had a 7% response rate.

“Consequently, the Postal Service adopted the sealed envelope for all invitations for FY 2018.”

A 600% increase in response!

There are two big rules of direct mail design:

1. It takes A Letter.
2. Put it in an envelope.

As for the survey, it is itself a pot-boiler and you can “self-administer” online, or participate by phone. If you are the social scientist, you know that a 50% response rate is the minimum acceptable for self-administered surveys, because who knows that the respondents don’t drop off, or conversely, have an axe to grind, or perversely, come from Chicago and complete several forms.

All results can be read here, but first and foremost, remember the two rules above.

Glad the Inspector has come on board!

Marketing, Thank You

How To Save Your Brand

AA TicketerThe most successful companies are those that everyone can place in a good story with a happy ending.

So it is that I can report to you that American Airlines gave us back our money, no questions asked.

It is a seemingly daunting challenge to get money out of a mega-giant company.  $45 billion in sales, 339,000 employees, protected by walls of service teams separated by deep moats of phone boards, websites, fax numbers, procedures and protocol.

Still, it only took two phone calls and a personal letter to initiate a resolution that delivered two valuable e-vouchers which we will use by January, 2017.

The Customer Relations Department looked at our problem and said, “Yes!”

Ironically, the same day we received the prized e-vouchers we also received an email from an earnest worker in the “Refunds Department” saying, “No.”  That was a belated response from our website submission of the original request, over three weeks ago.

We were delighted and satisfied with the turn of events, on many levels. First, we got our money back, no small deal in itself.   Second, American did the right thing quickly, within 4 days.  Third, and most important, American had recognized the value of a happy customer.

This last accomplishment is a twofer: of course, we will advocate on AA’s behalf, contributing to that word-of-mouth phenomenon wherein reputations are defined for good or bad.  But on top of that, American reinforced our belief in the goodness of the relationship, and that is the ultimate customer satisfaction, knowing we haven’t been ripped off by someone we thought was our friend.

I can’t stress this last point enough.  Brands live by their customer relationships.  The better a customer knows a business, the more profitable the relationship.  That’s because we buy more, we come back often, we cost less to service, and we bring our friends.

American Airlines’ Refunds Department, inappropriately named, failed on this test, but kudos to the Customer Relations Department that got it right.

Thanks for reading!  Please share, and to the readers who wished me luck in this venture, I can say it all worked out just as I hoped, and expected, that it would.