Lessons in Customer Engagement

Never underestimate the value of real connection in customer service.

Sainsbury’s Tiger Bread
For very little cost, Sainsbury’s took a toddler’s letter and turned it into a customer engagement opportunity.

Never underestimate the value of real connection in customer service.

Last week I discovered a charming tale about a loaf of bread, a three-and-a-half-year-old, and a giant U.K. supermarket chain. The story, for those who missed it, was about a Sainsbury’s product named Tiger Bread (pictured on the left). A rather astute and precocious child sent a letter to the grocery chain’s customer service department suggesting they change the name to Giraffe Bread, a more apt descriptor for the loaf. Without missing a beat, the grocery chain sent a warm letter in response with a gift card.

We can draw three lessons in customer engagement from this story and from Sainsbury’s response:

Tone: without sounding stilted or “official,” the response letter addressed the child in language and tone that matched the input given. Aside from the inclusion of a gift card, there was no marketing speak attached to the reply.

Speed: the original letter was dated May 31, 2011, the response was dated June 14, 2011, and the story went viral mid-June. That likely means the employee who responded was empowered to send a response at his discretion without the approval of any superiors.

Humanity: it was a very human moment. From the signature of the Sainsbury letter, which closes with the employee’s age (27 ⅓), to the agreement that the old name was a “bit silly.”

Altogether it made for a lovely story and a big win for Sainsbury’s brand out of a very small cost.
As advocates of small business, fellow small business operators often ask us if they should be worried about “appearing small” in the eyes of the market. This story – which is, at its heart, about a big business acting like a small business rather than a faceless corporation – illustrates exactly why small businesses should not be afraid to leverage their size as a benefit.