A few Decembers ago, on a gray Saturday afternoon about a week before Christmas, I was slumped in a rather musty-smelling wingback chair at my grandmother’s house in rural England. Nursing a moderate hangover, I was idly flicking through twitter on my phone trying to move as little of my body as possible, when a sponsored tweet flashed by.
“Proper coffee hand-roasted and delivered fresh to home or work. Have a go for £1”
I was familiar with Pact, the upstart coffee subscription service based in South East London. I liked Pact. We used their service at the office, and every week an envelope of coffee beans appeared through our letterbox. I’m no coffee connoisseur by any means but my co-workers, who all have meth-lab like coffee set ups at home, rated Pact’s offerings highly and we were pleased with the service. Considering they were just three or four people in a warehouse in London, they were doing well.
But something, maybe it was the hangover, maybe it was the pre-Christmas stress, but something about that tweet made me disproportionately angry. Something about that tweet plain pissed me off.
Proper. That word. That damn word.
Everybody has one word that makes them bristle. “Bespoke”, “moist”, “guesstimate”, that sort of thing. You’re thinking of yours right now, aren’t you? Mine is “proper”.
I loathe that word. It’s so smug, so self-aggrandizing, so superior, so lazy. It implies, without a hint of evidence or qualification, that you’re better than everyone else.
Of course, any normal person would have shrugged and continued idly thumb scrolling, but no, not today. Action was required here. So I did the unthinkable. In a fit of social media sociopathy, I replied to a sponsored tweet. Who does that? Someone who irrationally hates the word ‘proper’, that’s who.
“.@pactcoffee -1 for using the word “proper”. You’re better than that. Love, a loyal subscriber.”
And, AND, I even did the total jerk move of putting a period before my reply so everyone who followed me could see how maladjusted I am. But I didn’t care, I had satisfied the angry old man inside me and pocketed my phone with a self-satisfied grunt.
But not even 5 minutes later, there was a disturbance in my trousers. A ding. I fished my phone from my pocket and was surprised, perhaps even shocked, at what I saw. A reply. On a Saturday. Days before Christmas. From a tiny little company. To my unnecessary and silly reply to a sponsored tweet.
“@cubedweller Sorry! We didn’t mean to sound snobbish. Looking for a word that conveys good taste. Maybe just ‘tasty’?! Love, Pact.”
Well then. Well played, Pact. That they replied at all is a very positive signal, especially on a Saturday right before Christmas.
“@pactcoffee I think you could even legitimately refer to yourselves as “great!” – love the product, keep smashing it.”
They sent back a quick and polite reply, and we went on with our lives.
A nice little case study of a real, human conversation between a customer and a brand. But that wasn’t the end of it – not by a long shot.
Back in the office, in an “up and coming” part of London a couple of days later, the door buzzer rang and the usual “I’ll get it!” sprint to the door ensued. A wide-eyed courier, still a little shaken by the excited stampede, handed over a recycled Amazon box. Curious. No one was expecting any deliveries. So we tore it open in a fit of collective curiosity. The box was filled with bags and bags of Pact Coffee.
No way. No freakin’ way. Did they… they couldn’t have… could they?
At the bottom of the box was a Christmas card, with a handwritten message inside:
“Dear Alex, we hope you and your loved ones enjoy this over the festive period! “Great” coffee sent fresh. Love, Pact x.”
I was floored. They did, they actually did.
Even after that Grade A back and forth on Twitter, which was solid customer engagement in itself, they took the time to figure out who I was, where I worked, determine that I wasn’t mentally unstable (just a bit hung-over), what our address was (no mean feat either, as we’d worked hard to suppress the location of our shared warehouse digs in a rather shabby part of South London), package up the coffee and write out a note.
Not only that, the message in the card was so perfect in its tone and context; simple but very funny too. And the craziest, most wonderful part of this little story is that Pact did all this, went through all this effort, for someone WHO WAS ALREADY A CUSTOMER.
Wherever in the world you and your customers are, this is what separates good businesses from great ones: not assuming customers will always be customers.
Understanding that the relationship is a delicate one, one that needs, attention, creativity, and a human touch if the bond is expected to grow stronger over time. Pact didn’t just rely on a great product; they spent time on the experience.