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The Powerful Handwritten Note

Want to really connect with a guest? Try the old fashioned way.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Mr. Larry Mogelonsky - P. Eng.
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Communication is too easy nowadays. With the trifecta of a computer, a cell phone and a printer, there’s no need to write out personal correspondence anymore. That is, unless you want to make an impact.

Take hotel welcome cards for example. You arrive at your room and a colorful tray of fruit is waiting there ready to serve; a nice touch in and of itself. But then you notice the greeting letter is a printed note. It could have been made just for you or it could have been made from a template built years ago. You don’t know.

Now suppose that same greeting letter is a handwritten note with your name on it. Regardless of length or what’s said, you know that someone had to physically take the time to write that note, and that it probably hasn’t been sitting around for too long either. It sends a persuasive subliminal message.

How often do you get a spam email personally addressed to you? Despite very strong filtering, I nonetheless get dozens every day. And for each one, I’m able to categorize it as real or spam within seconds. If it’s the latter, then the spam is in the trash well before the time it takes to read the opening sentence.

For almost a decade now, it’s become all too easy to set up a template in Microsoft Word and print off a hundred letters to different people then mail them out within the hour. We are satiated with electronically generated mass messages wherever we are, so much so that the process has taken on an aura of effortlessness.

As a result, when you do pick up the pen, you’re not only expressing what is written, but you are communicating on a different wavelength all together. Whether you copy off a template or not, the recipient knows that someone had to spend the time to write out each individual word. Moreover, people appreciate the effort required to write with a legible and stylish cursive.

An excellent example is the AAA 5-Diamond, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, California, which could be considered as a master in personal notes. Each and every guest arrival includes a warm, friendly handwritten note from the Managing Director or another member of his senior staff. These letters take time to write, but the impressions reinforce their well-deserved reputation. This is a true example of service excellence.

To me, receiving a handwritten letter comes along with an inherent quality of friendship and a greater understanding of one another. It’s as if the sender and I have this subconscious bond, and an electronic version will never suffice. But it doesn’t stop there.

I should have titled this article, ‘The Power of a Personalized Handwritten Note.’ Picture arriving at your room again, but this time, instead of just a written draft with your name on it, there’s also a little message attached relating to who you are. This could be a reference to a past stay or even a reply to something said on Twitter. Details aside, the message is loud and clear: as the hotelier, you view each guest as an individual with specific needs, and not just a dollar sign.

Compare the rush you get when you open a personalized gift to when you receive paltry cash or a gift certificate. Which is more impactful? It’s the same feeling with handwritten notes, only to a lesser magnitude. Think of it as just one more elegant touch in your arsenal to heighten your service quotient and customer loyalty. Now throw in an element of surprise and the guest is yours for life!

I realize this is probably old news for many senior managers, but luxury properties aside, the problem is I don’t see handwritten notes often enough. It’s a subtle element that can easily be overlooked when you reevaluate your property’s guest service mandate. The peculiar nature of this trend, however, is that the more obsolete the pen-to-paper method becomes, the more effective it will be. So, just food for thought, when was the last time you sent out a handwritten correspondence to a guest?
Larry Mogelonsky P. Eng.    Mr. Larry Mogelonsky - P. Eng.
Managing Partner, Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited
Owners, Principals, or Partners
LMA Communications Inc.

Bio: One of the world’s most published writer in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes four books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), ...
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