Like many parents, about a month ago I too had to make that fateful 2 a.m. trip to the ER one night with my toddler. Thankfully she was perfectly fine, the staff were amazingly friendly, and we had a pleasant experience given the circumstances. But here’s what surprised me – I received a follow-up call and a thank you note from the ER a few days later. I’ve never had a hospital doctor call me after the visit to follow up with me, let alone send me a “thank you for choosing us” note later. I was quite floored – which of course was the intention. Now I also know from experience that the Target clinic does these cards too, but here is where they both take a really good thing and fall short. They have the tools to do something amazing for their customers, to make them feel great, set them up to share their experience with others, and instead of reading an expected handwritten letter after opening that envelope my expectations fell flat.

Inside this hand addressed envelope is a very short, very impersonal note. Now I’m sure as a hospital they are limited on what they could in fact say if they were to write a short letter, but surely they can do better than “Thank you, RHC ER.” What if instead I opened up this letter and saw a note from the doctor herself that said, “We just wanted to say thank you for choosing us. We’re glad you’re feeling better, and of course if you have any questions please give us a call at (555) 555-5555.” Still generic enough to be written out ahead of time (which I’m sure all these cards are), but not a 2 second note either. Even better would be to have the staff all sign their best wishes in a silver pen on the top blue portion – make it a true “get well” card. Simple changes really but to someone who was injured or ill it’s still a sweet gesture. But this simple marketing gimmick, well it went in the trash instead of on my desk.

Now the Stonespring Emergency Center still knocks Target out of the park by doing an actual phone call. That human touch, hearing the sincerity in the doctor’s voice (note I said “doctor” – not an assistant or random staff member but the person we saw that night) really is an amazing thing. I mean, here I am voicing how great they are out here on the internet! Hey if anyone gets grossly injured or sick, go to this ER! But that’s the point. The card didn’t get me to recommend them, the phone call did. Together the phone call could have turned the card into a business card of sorts – a conversation starter to others that “Hey look – the ER sent me a get well card!” If it had just been personalized beyond the address on the front this marketing could have gotten real legs.

Moral of the story, if you’re going to do this kind of service for your customers then go all the way. Otherwise if nothing else you’re just throwing away money on print pieces and stamps. Encourage your employees to take notes after visits so they can write thoughtful notes, give guidance on what can and cannot be said, offer incentives for going the extra mile (i.e. include stickers if it’s for a child, or a coupon for a free soda next time they’re in your store), and make sure they have the time to do them without being rushed or just throwing it on top of their other work. By giving them the tools and time to do these cards right they can become social media fodder and expand your reach.

Stonespring Emergency Center’s Card