Handwritten Notes in Business
When you consider the handwritten note you may think “It’s a dying art” or “No one writes notes by hand”. I agree that it has become less common than it once was but I would argue that the uncommonness makes it far more valuable for you to embrace. Margaret Shepherd explains in her book, The Art of the Handwritten Note, “The handwritten note has been around for hundreds of years, and it’s not going to die out just because some of its everyday functions have been taken over by e-mail and voice mail. Adapting to the needs of every fresh generation, it continues to connect people. In fact, a handwritten note is even more vital now than it was a few years ago because it’s less routinely used“.
But the handwritten note has an intrinsic value beyond its rarity. It’s not just an antiquarian curiosity, it’s an extremely useful tool. It upgrades a wide variety of messages, transforming “Oops” into “Please accept my apology,” and “Got the money” into “Thank you for your generosity.” Ink on paper is still the classiest way to express the thoughts that really matter, on the occasions that really count. And sometimes it’s the only way your words will carry sympathy and gratitude with a special kind of sincerity when your reader sees them on paper in your writing.
As Jeremy Griswold points out in his helpful article, many of us were taught and forced to write thank you notes by our parents or grandparents. Many of us still write thank you notes when we receive a gift or when someone goes out of their way to do something kind or generous for us. But what about writing handwritten notes for other reasons? Lets consider the handwritten note in business.
Handwritten notes are good for business. In the last few weeks I received two handwritten notes from companies where I had recently done business. Both times I was surprised and impressed – perhaps amazed – by the gesture. I stayed at a Mandarin Oriental property on a business trip and received a hand written note in my room welcoming me to the property and expressing the hotel’s desire for me to have a wonderful stay. In this act of hospitality they invited me to call them personally if I had any concerns or knew of any way they could serve me better. This wasn’t a preprinted note written by a corporate marketing person. This was a personally addressed ink on paper handwritten note.
The other handwritten note I received was from the dental practice that my family recently started going to. This note arrived in the mail a few days after our first appointment welcoming us to the practice and thanking us for our business. The note wasn’t generic and included personal remarks – passing comments that I had mentioned in the office – that they had remembered and mentioned in the note. Even more impressive was that the note was not written by a dental assistant or office staffer but was personally written by the dentist.
It’s nothing new for businesses to try and express their gratitude for your business. That’s business as usual. But it normally comes in the form of a follow up email or a standardized form letter personalized only by your name printed on the envelope. And it normally sounds more like “Thank you for your money. Please give us more.”
The two handwritten notes I received, however, seemed both thoughtful and sincere. I knew that someone didn’t simply grab a stack of preprinted cards or push print on a form letter. Instead there was intentional effort as someone sat down and wrote out a kind and thoughtful note. It takes time to write a personalized note and the gesture can make an impressive statement.
I would suggest that if you are a business owner or leader you should be writing handwritten notes to your customers. If you are a manager or supervisor you should be writing notes to the people that work for you and with you.
Even an ordinary handwritten note is better than the best email, and a good handwritten note on the right occasion is a work of art. It says to the reader, “You matter to me, I thought of you, I took trouble on your behalf.” And that’s just the unspoken messages, the pleasure anticipated before the reader even reads the words that the pen and paper have inspired you to choose. The reader can reread what you sent and save it and remember you when they see it. A note can deliver all this for less than a dollar’s worth of materials and ten minutes of your time.