Monday, November 12, 2012

The power of specificity (2) – Banks' emails to customers

During and after Hurricane Sandy, many banks in the United States sent emails to their customers to offer special assistance. Offering special assistance during the emergency was a considerate thing to do, and the emails were thoughtful and helpful.

After receiving several such emails, I noticed that some emails were more helpful than others; they were more specific. For instructional purposes, I am comparing two of the messages. In making this comparison, I am not questioning any bank’s sincerity. I am commenting only on the writing.

Email from Bank A
The weather events of the last several days have been unprecedented, and we hope that you and your families are safe and secure.

We understand that this may be a difficult time for those living along Hurricane Sandy’s path, and many have suffered damage and loss. At [Bank A], we care about our customers and want to work with those who need help during this stressful time.

Let us know if you have questions or concerns regarding your account. We encourage you to contact us with any concerns you may have. Call the number on your card or statement, or you can reach out to [an address] on Twitter. Our associates are prepared to assist customers who may be experiencing unexpected financial challenges due to the storm.

We’re dedicated to providing immediate and ongoing relief for our customers, and are here to assist in any way we can.

Please check our website to keep updated on temporary branch closures.
Email from Bank B
Recovery efforts are underway and we want to help you with your banking needs. We will be rebating a variety of overdraft, ATM and credit card fees incurred by our customers during Hurricane Sandy in several states.

Upon request, the following types of fees will be rebated for our Consumer Banking and Business Banking customers in states impacted by the storm:

•    Overdraft fees, including sustained overdraft fees

•    Overdraft protection line of credit transfer fees

•    Credit card late fees

•    Foreign ATM fees (charged by [Bank B]; other banks’ fees not included)

The rebates will be offered to [Bank B] customers in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. They will be applied to fees for transactions posted to the account on October 29 and October 30.

Please stop by your local branch or contact us at the numbers listed below for assistance with a rebate. (Note: for credit card late fee rebates, please contact the consumer number listed below.)

Consumer inquiries: 800-xxx-xxxx
Small Business inquiries: 800-xxx-xxxx

We appreciate your business and please stay safe.

Bank A spent most of its words on general statements of sympathy and general statements of available assistance. That’s good. But Bank B spent most of its words on specific forms of available assistance. That’s better. Keep in mind, Bank A may in fact have been offering more assistance or more forms of assistance than Bank B; but if so, it doesn’t show in the email.

The Takeaway: Once again: I am not questioning any bank’s sincerity. I am using these examples to illustrate the power of specificity.

See disclaimer.

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