An Ace Apology: Customer Service by Design

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They say you can get away with anything with a little charm. There is some truth to that. Of course we are all much more willing to cut a brand some more slack if we meet a really cool, charming and friendly person when something goes wrong and if that person treats us like royalty. Usually we call this “great customer service”.

But what if we don’t meet anybody and instead get a letter of apology sent to us from a distance? Sure, the text in the letter can take the brand some way, but what about the visual expression? Can a letter of apology look so good and charming you’re willing to forgive just about anything? I’ll let you be the judge. Let me show you an example:

How Ace Hotel Says I’m Sorry

As you know from before I’ve been a fan of Ace Hotel. I’ve stayed at the New York variety several times and at the original Seattle location once (I’ll tell you more about the Seattle experience some other time). For the most part, I’ve been very happy with my stay, but this summer I was disappointed. Me and Sally had just spent a week on Shelter Island (highly recommended by the way), a three hour drive from Manhattan and planned to spend our last night on Manhattan before going home to Sweden. I booked Ace as usual but when I called the hotel from the car on my way over to double check my reservation they had lost the reservation and were quite reluctant to assume the responsibility for loosing it. Instead they offered me to get it back if I paid an additional $80. Needless to say we were pissed.

Upon arrival, perhaps biased by this annoying incident, we also felt that the room we ended up getting was pretty bad. Dark, damp and small, with a window towards a wall. This didn’t make thing better. (Although they did have a cool internet surprise waiting that I’ll post about some other time). We went home to Sweden feeling that our next temporary New York home would be anywhere but Ace.

A couple of days later an email dropped in from the charming (no irony here, she is charming) Valentine who works at Ace, starting out with: “I just returned from being out of town and saw your tweets and Facebook posts — so sorry you had what sounds like a ridiculous fiasco with your room…”. She promised to make it up to me with a complimentary room night (in a nice room this time) on my next New York trip. Things started to feel better.

One day when I came home from work, the envelope at the top of this post rested on the floor. I opened the envelope and found this:

How can you NOT forgive someone who goes through the trouble of sending something like that over to Sweden. This is in my mind the design equivalent of meeting a really cool and charming person who is genuinely sorry for a mistake. This person not only makes things right with something material, but with sincerity and charm. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what matters to most people. We want to feel special.

And the next time you hesitate about using your marketing budget for great design, think about it in terms of customer service. Because really, that’s what great commercial design is.

Ps. Let’s see if the letter looks cool on the reverse side too:

Yes it did.

About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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