If you care about your customers

This is just a little thing. It’s not even a digital thing.

It’s a real-life thing.

You want your customer to send you something. Payment maybe? Or a returned product? Or a nice, complimentary letter about how customer-focused you are?

And you give them an address that looks like this:

Kingston Technology Europe Limited
Kingston Court
Brooklands Close
Sunbury on Thames
Middlesex, TW16 7EP
United Kingdom

Now, we may know in the rational bit of our heads that there is a ton of redundant information here. Stuff that whether included or omitted will have absolutely no bearing on whether the damn thing arrives where it should. (I just love that “Limited”.)

But being the dutiful, well-trained creatures that we are, we write it all out, don’t we? (I confess, I do.) Cramping letters into the available space, with teacher’s voice in our head telling us that if the package goes astray, and we hadn’t put hyphens in the right place (or worse, omitted them as in the Sunbury example above) then we had only ourselves to blame?

But if you know (or could establish with a little bit of effort) that stuff sent to:

Brooklands Close
TW16 7EP

would get there just as effectively, then why wouldn’t you? Really?

That’s 10 of 16 character strings removed. 63%.

OK, you can keep the UK if you’re really not sure where something will be sent from. But you probably know, don’t you?

A little more thought. It’s the small things. Remember that stuff about “unstructured conversations”? The closer you can get to an easy vernacular, the more people are going to like you. And that’s going to make you more profitable.

Update: later the same day…

Different issue, different company.

“Hi, thanks for calling. Can I have your membership number?”

–erm, sorry, I haven’t got it anywhere to hand.

“Ooh, that’s ok, just give me your postcode, date of birth and first line of your address”

–ok. (and I do)

“Right you are: your membership number is AB123456789. Please can you use that next time you call us?”

–why? it seemed much more straightforward for me just to tell you things I always know, like my date of birth and address.

“Ah well you see, it’s easier for us you see if you tell us your membership number [SHE ACTUALLY SAID THIS] that way we don’t have to go looking up addresses and dates of birth and so on, you see. It’s…quicker.”

–is it? is it really? what you did seemed pretty fast.

“Thank you Mr Clarke. Now, why did you call us?”

–hang on just a moment though. imagine I had called you and given you my membership number, which I’d either had to memorise, write down somewhere, or look up in a big pile of papers under my desk while on the call to you. imagine I’d done that.


–would you need to ask me anything else? I mean, ask me any other information about me? you know, to make sure you were talking to the right person and all that.

“Erm, yes”

–what would you need to ask me?

“Can we just get on with-”

–no, I’m sorry, we can’t. What else would you ask me?

[tetchy voice] “Do you want me to help you or not?”

–c’mon, get it over with

[tiny voice] “Address and date of birth”

–thank you

“You’re welcome”

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Paul, great post and shows where laziness can creep into organisations.  For me its about consistency if I want a good quality experience then I want to see it from beginning to end of my interaction.  It is interesting that some organisations trade off different areas of their service design “well my product is remarkable and we pay less attention to our shop because you want to see greater investment in the product don’t you”  It seems that sometimes organisations do it in reverse ” Hey this is a not so good product but we give you lovely service” 
    Quality product and service is what I want please.

  2. Dan says:

    65.5% reduction at the character level…

  3. Sarah Taylor says:

    Y’see, she hates it too. I would love to speak to the person who created those rules, because it surely wasn’t her.  How do these people rise to the point where they’re in charge of customer communication? How come someone within the organisation hasn’t questioned that already?  Well done, Paul!

  4. Rob Dallison says:

    Thanks Paul for the great anecdotes.

    Regarding the inane customer service script, I have been through that one about 15 times in the last month and (like Sarah Taylor) would love to get 5 minutes with the genius who obviously has never tried calling their own customer service number… Does nobody do use cases here?

    For the address I think you could get away with
    Kingston Technology
    TW16 7EP
    This based on a recent meeting with an old friend and business colleague, who for our first meeting in 12 years gave me pub name and zip code, no more no less. Got the job done…

  5. Rob Dallison says:

    Did I really just say “zip code”?? Urghh, sorry, postcode…

  6. Chris McCray says:

    The Royal Mail’s online address finder:


    then click on “Address Finder” – there’s a circular joke going on here, that URL/web address shows “addressfinder.aspx” as the page, but their site goes to the postcode finder first…

    I digress… it gives for the postcode: TW16 7EP the address:

    Kingston Technology Corporation
    Kingston Court
    Brooklands Close
    TW16 7EP

    This would be the Post Office preferred address. They (Royal Mail) could get twitchy over deviation from that – though most addresses in use don’t comply perfectly with their standards in my experience.+

    Though for Royal Mail, Rob Dallison’s pretty much right – though the post-town would assist Royal Mail in the event the postcode transcription that occurs right at the beginning of their processing goes awry.

    It boils down to a shortest feasible address of:

    Kingston Technology
    TW16 7EP

    You don’t necessarily need the “on-Thames” bit, there’s an internal replacement table of town-name fragments to full Royal Mail approved addresses, and I think Sunbury to SUNBURY-ON-THAMES is one of them.

    That phone call is crazy, though.

    I’ll get my anorak on the way out…

    + 15 years in data-prep/IT dept of a parcel carrier, I have way too much knowledge about these things…

  7. Andy Mabbett says:

    Further to Chris McCray’s excellent comment (my Dad worked at Royal mail all his life, such stuff was drummed into me), Kingston make some errors regarding their postcode.

    Postcodes should always appear last in a UK address, even after country, and always on a line on their own (and never followed by punctuation).

    The phone call was great, but you can imagine what gestures she was making at the phone, can’t you?

  8. Matthew says:

    Another one is an unsolicited phone call, usually on behalf of my mobile phone company.

    They want ME to confirm my name and address, so that they know they’re talking to the right person, for Data Protection.

    Tell you what, YOU tell me my name and address. YOU prove you’re calling from Orange. For MY data protection. I already know my name and address, and that I am who I say I am. I don’t know that you are who you say you are, and I sure as hell am not going to give you my address!

  9. Marged says:

    I just love that phone call. That is all.

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