Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dear Mr Soandso

Does anyone really believe that because a name is inserted at the start of a mass email message, or added onto an electronic newsletter, that it's a more personal communication? It's really clear the difference between a sincere personal email and a clear mail merge of a database list into email communications. Occasionally someone is going to make it really obvious they're using technology to try to appear personal (e.g., by using a formal name or complete name) - or they're going to screw it up.

I recently got an email from an airline that started "Dear Mr. Soandso" ... then continued. A few hours later I got an email apology saying that a technology glitch caused a problem with the database of their "valued customers" and regret if it caused offense. My first inclination was to feel really sorry for the poor staff person who likely got into trouble for it. The next was wondering why they needed the name in there anyway. Collectively maybe we are Mr. Soandso?

When email has MORE information that's part of the personalization -- such as mileage or hotel points -- or the status of an online order -- then including my name adds to the confirmation. But if it's just a mass-solicitation or newsletter, skip trying to add a name to it.

If it arrives in my email, shouldn't the assumption be that I know it's for me? And if it's a mass solicitation or an e-newsletter - chances are good I know it wasn't written just for me even if my name is in a salutation. Is that what your members might think too?

2 comments:

Greg Melia, CAE said...

Cindy -- I received the Soandso message too, and shared it with my staff as an example of the importance of getting details correct. As for me, I am a strong believer in personalizing a message with someone's name ... as the old saw goes, people love to hear/read their name. It also sets the message off on the right foot, suggesting that the rest of the message is relevant to the recipient -- which of course is the real challenge!

David M. Patt, CAE said...

I'm with you on this, Cindy.

When a stranger address me by name in an email, I know it's meant to make me think more kindly of the sender. It doesn't work.

I know I'm being manipulated and I don't like it.