Happy Christmas [first_name]!

The season is over and the Christmas cards are being taken down. I glance fondly over a few – especially the ones with a handwritten page of updates from people I see less than I mean to.

And then there’s the corporate cards. What are they about? It’s nice to hear from Lee the milkman – he does a great job, come rain or snow. But the building society? The bank I’m in the middle of a major row with? Some printer I used once 8 years ago? I wonder what these are meant to achieve beyond mild irritation.

Even lower on the ladder of meaningful communication is the corporate email. Finding it a bit of a drag to keep in touch with your customers? Do it the dirt-cheap super-convenient way. You don’t even need to design an original card, just scoop some clip art off the Office floor and add a bland message. For added vibrancy incorporate a few different fonts and a couple of clashing colours. And…. Send!! Job done. Who cares that we don’t care, at least we act like we care (a bit). And that’s the main thing.

Is it though?

Is a message that isn’t heartfelt worth the screen it is written on?

Time was when Christmas card exchanges were highly formal. There was a correct greeting depending on the social relativity of the sender and the recipient. There was very little demand for effusive sign offs. The most important issue was process management. The job was considered complete only if everybody who should get a card got one. Not in November, that would look foolish. But certainly not after The Day Itself.  And panic would ensue when That Card arrived from the unfortunate neglected individual who had been forgotten or deemed unworthy. The social quandary of non-response vs trigger response. Which is the lesser of the two evils?

Onward and upward

These days, thanks to a combination of time pressure, facebook and my children’s incisive judgement, my card sending is much diminished. If it’s somebody I would give a warm hug to if I bumped into them, then they get a card. (Assuming of course that I have organised cards, written them, found the addresses and remembered to post them)

If only some of the companies I hear from applied the same rigour to their customer communications just think how different the world will be. I know you’ll have your own ideas already so just for my own amusement I include here a few phrases  that would have a whole new meaning if only they were heartfelt

“your call is important to us, we will answer it as soon as we can”

“how can I help?”

“best wishes”

Do share your inspired ideas (twitter @cshovlin, #heartfelt) and I’ll add some of them to this posting.

Meanwhile I wish you an excellent and heartfelt 2012. And hope you will join us in our first Thinking Tank of the year “Out with the old, in with the new” see here for more.