The Smarmy “Valued Customer” Line

This week I taught two groups of sophisticated writers who communicate with clients. One of the business writing topics we agreed to disagree about was the language we use to show customers we care.

I like statements like "You have been a valued customer for many years" and "Thank you for being a valued customer." But some of the class participants found those smarmy–that is, excessively flattering–and insincere.

The words "valued customer" do come across as empty when we use them in place of the customer's name. And they sound phony when we use them in what is clearly a mass mailing that goes to every customer, valued or not.

I myself dislike the words "valued customer" when they appear in an email from a company I have done business with for a short time, such as one hour or one day.

Then how do we show clients and customers we care in our writing?

I like to use lots of positive language: appreciate, thank you, happy to, I can, delighted, pleased, look forward to, terrific, and other words that communicate a smile. Are those terms smarmy in business messages? I don't think so.

But we are not all the same. Some of us thrive on personalized greetings and closings, positive language, and even smiley faces. Others want business writers to get to the point and cut the cute stuff. (Read my article "Adapting to Your Readers' Style Differences" for more on style preferences.)

In the writing class, however we felt about "valued customer" language, we agreed on the value of focusing on positives rather than negatives, responding promptly, saying yes to customer requests, doing our best when we have to say no, and keeping the customer informed.  

Valued reader, do you have phrases you like to use to show clients and customers you care?

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