Hallmark Launches Customer Service Solution for Businesses

Hallmark Business Connections, the business-to-business subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, has launched a customer care solution for businesses that lets contact center employees create meaningful connections with customers through Hallmark greeting cards.

The solution, available via a custom Web interface, allows contact center employees to create and mail Hallmark greeting cards to the customers they serve to express empathy, sympathy, excitement, or congratulations.

"For more than 100 years, Hallmark greeting cards have helped strengthen emotional connections between people," said Donald J. Hall Jr., Hallmark's CEO, in a statement. "Using the power of a card to connect businesses with their customers provides a unique opportunity for customer engagement that is authentic and meaningful."

And, it satisfies another business need, according to Rhonda Basler, director of customer engagement at Hallmark. She cited research from Forrester that found that while 60 percent of companies want to differentiate themselves on customer service, most do not know how to do so. "This is very different and very dramatic," she says. "It's a great way to let customers know that you care about them, that they are more than just a name in a database."

Using Hallmark's proprietary digital handwriting, Hallmark Business Connections prints and mails each card to the chosen recipient on behalf of the customer service representative and company. Users can choose from pre-scripted cards or customize the messages, images, typefaces, etc. Companies can also incorporate branding when appropriate.

Though e-cards are available, the preferred medium is a physical card that is sent in the mail. "When you've had that incredible moment with a customer, an e-card just doesn't feel right," Basler says. "For it to be true and genuine, it's good [for the customer] to get a physical card."

Hallmark handles all the printing and even puts the card in the mail. Users can type the intended recipient's name and address into the Web form, or companies can upload their customer databases to Hallmark for integration with the card-building software.

"It's all designed to be as functionally easy as possible for an employee to send an unexpected greeting card to a customer," Basler says.

Companies that send the cards can usually see the impact through employee engagement and customer satisfaction surveys. In addition, the Hallmark offers an advanced reporting system that compares the results among those who received the card versus those who did not.

"Companies certainly have a lot of opportunities to send a lot of junk mail. This is something that creates a genuine connection," says Tressa Angell, president of Hallmark Business Connections.

Prior to launching the product, Hallmark piloted it with Kansas City Power and Light (KCP&L). The pilot resulted in improved employee engagement at KCP&L, and the customer impact was overwhelmingly positive. Three quarters of customers reported that their perceptions of KCP&L improved as a result of receiving the card. Overall satisfaction with the customer service experience is 10 percentage points higher among those who recall receiving the card than among those who did not. In addition, customers who received a Hallmark card were significantly more likely to rate KCP&L as being "much better" than other utility companies.

"The comments from both our contact center associates and our customers have been overwhelmingly positive and heartwarming," said Erica Penner, manager of performance management at KCP&L, in a statement. "Our contact center employees often desire to do more beyond the call. The opportunity to send a greeting card through this program has had a positive impact on our employees, as they're able to share empathy, concern, or excitement in concert with what their customers are feeling."

Sending the cards also has an impact on the employees. "The employee uplift is tremendous," Basler says. "It really has the power to change their perception of their job."

And though originally designed for use by customer service reps, the Hallmark offering can really be used by any employee who interacts with customers, she adds.

After some initial software and setup fees, companies simply pay for the cards and the postage. Per-card costs vary depending on the type of cards selected.