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Make It Easy for Customers to Behave

I am taking a cross-country plane trip tonight, and this morning two companies helped me do that more easily: Alaska Airlines and National Car rental. When I checked my email this morning, both of them had sent messages to make my travel easier.

Alaska wrote with lots of good information:

Welcome Aboard. For your convenience, here is your flight information for your upcoming trip to Orlando on Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air starting 9/25/2007. We’ve also listed useful information and services to help make your trip easy.

Along with the weather in Orlando, Florida, Alaska informed me of my check-in time, reservation number, flight number, seat number, and tips on carry-on luggage. I appreciated all of these. More than that, I appreciated the fact that I did not have to sort through my email to find information about my flight, whose reservation I made a couple of weeks ago. This reminder came at exactly the right time.

National Car rental provided the same good service. Their email said:

Friendly Email Reminder from
Thank you for using National to make your reservation. Below is your confirmation number. You will need it when you get to the rental facility.

Along with my confirmation number, National gave me a link to my reservation. As with Alaska, I appreciated having this information available at the exact moment I wanted it.

Both companies made it easy for me to take the action they want. When I get to the airport, I will not drive the agents crazy because I am missing the information I need to check in. When I arrive in Orlando, I won’t create work for the car rental agents because I don’t know the details of my reservation. I have everything I need to be a well-behaved customer.

As a business writer, think about how you can serve your customers–and therefore your own interests–through your written communication with them. Would an email reminder help your customers be more efficient? Would a checklist increase their consumer awareness and help them use your service more effectively?

The right communication at the right time–it’s impressive. I don’t believe I have ever flown on Alaska Airlines before, but if the rest of their service is as helpful as their email, I will be a repeat customer.

Happy trails to me,


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.