This morning, Saturday, October 1, 2011, I received an e-mail from Barnes & Noble. Normally these are ads touting the latest books available or the chotchke for last minute gifts. While I don’t consider them to be clutter in my Inbox, they usually do not get a second glance and wind up in the Trash pretty quickly.
But this one was quite different. Instead of the bold banner and faux website look, this was a formal letter. Even the Subject line was much more professional and exuded a tone of professionalism and importance:
Subject: Important Information Regarding Your Borders Account
Interesting… Barnes & Noble writing to me about my Borders Account. So I opened the e-mail. As I did, I’m thinking “Borders is bankrupt. Guess B-&-N bought out their customer list.”
Sure enough, the e-mail explained that Barnes & Noble has bought Borders’ customer list.
And you are thinking, “So what?” For me, the importance was how the e-mail was
written crafted. The tone of the e-mail was friendly, personable, yet still tinged with importance and professionalism. Most companies tend to write either legalise to cover their you-know-whats or they are incredibly forceful in stating “their rights” to buy a list.
Yes this e-mail was much more a one-on-one correspondence obviously intended to calmly explain the opportunities this transfer offers to the former customers of Borders while alerting the same to the transfer in a non-threatening manner. On both counts, Barnes & Noble succeeded admirably.
Below is the full text of the e-mail. You can also view the e-mail at this location.
Dear Borders Customer,
My name is William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, and I’m writing to you today on behalf of the entire B&N team to make you aware of important information regarding your Borders account.
First of all let me say Barnes & Noble uniquely appreciates the importance bookstores play within local communities, and we’re very sorry your Borders store closed.
As part of Borders ceasing operations, we acquired some of its assets including Borders brand trademarks and their customer list. The subject matter of your DVD and other video purchases will be part of the transferred information. The federal bankruptcy court approved this sale on September 26, 2011.
Our intent in buying the Borders customer list is simply to try and earn your business. The majority of our stores are within close proximity to former Borders store locations, and for those that aren’t, we offer our award-winning NOOK™ digital reading devices that provide a bookstore in your pocket. We are
readers like you, and hope that through our stores, NOOK devices, and our bn.com online bookstore we can win your trust and provide you with a place to read and shop.
It’s important for you to understand however you have the absolute right to opt-out of having your customer data transferred to Barnes & Noble. If you would like to opt-out, we will ensure all your data we receive from Borders is disposed of in a secure and confidential manner. Please visit www.bn.com/borders before October 15, 2011 to do so.
At Barnes & Noble we share your love of books — whatever shape they take. We also take our responsibility to service communities by providing a local bookstore very seriously. In
the coming weeks, assuming you don’t opt-out, you’ll be hearing from us with some offers to encourage you to shop our stores and try our NOOK products. We hope you’ll give us a chance
to be your bookstore.
By no means am I a fanboi of Barnes & Noble. There are some aspects of B&N that could be better. But I have found their approach to book-selling to be consistently customer-oriented with an attention to the concerns of the customer first. Many companies could learn from this e-mail if they would only take the time to understand what makes this e-mail work.
1) The e-mail is professional yet personable. We are not reading volumes of legal wording to justify the sale or the purchase. But we are reading that an action has been taken which affects our customer information and we, the customer, need to be aware of this. The explanation is friendly, non-threatening and offers options for us to take if we prefer not to have the information available to another company.
2) The information is clear. Customers are not left having to resort to dictionaries and grammar texts to figure out what is being said. The text is concise, clear, and flows from one thought to the next.
3) Barnes & Noble does not hide their intentions. Unlike many companies that buy mailing lists, B&N makes it clear:
Our intent in buying the Borders customer list is simply to try and earn your business.
As a current B&N customer, it’s a wash for me. But I have several friends who shopped Borders exclusively for a variety of reasons. In talking with them, they have mentioned they will be giving B&N a shot because of the honesty in stating their intentions.
Wow! What a concept! Honesty in business. Maybe some other companies (like Government Motors) should try it some time. But I digress.
4) A simple way out. It is refreshing to see that Barnes & Noble has kept the links short and simple (bn.com, www.bn.com/borders, www.bn.com/privacy). Nothing kills an effort within an e-mail to be friendly and personable like a long PHP string code for a link.
Attention Web designers and publicists: We are almost 20 years into the use of websites. Get a clue: short link addresses make for a more comfortable read and a much less threatening sense within e-mails and message board posts.
In all, this e-mail shows a clear effort on the part of several groups within Barnes & Noble to reach out to former Borders customers in a way that is friendly, customer-oriented and treats each customer as a person, not a number. Kudos on a job well done!