Customer Service in a Digital Age

A recent report sparked a debate in our offices: should you take notes by hand or on a device? Is there any value in writing anything by hand?

I confess. I am a handwriting enthusiast. I like writing things by hand. I keep notebooks, shopping lists, sticky notes with reminders, to help me through my day. I visualize the page in a notebook when I’m trying to recall an instruction or outcome. I was not at all surprised that the study revealed that taking notes by hand was more effective as a study tool than typing notes into a device.

Facts vs. concepts

In the study, both groups of participants – those who wrote by hand and those who typed – were asked to watch TED talks. After watching and taking notes either in a notebook or on a laptop, the two groups were able to equally recall basic facts, but the group who wrote by hand performed significantly better on “conceptual-application” questions. When the students had to formulate an answer based on remembering and applying a concept, those who typed into a device did poorly. The scientists attributed this poor performance to two factors:

  1. When typing into a device, the students were focused on documenting the lecture verbatim. They were focused on just writing the words they heard not listening to the concepts. Those who wrote by hand had to be selective on what they wrote down, so they tended to listen and evaluate as they made notes.
    Devices are distracting. Students on devices were likely to click over to social media or other applications when the lecture seemed a little dull.
  2. Our group takeaway was that writing by hand slowed you down and encouraged you to focus, to stay engaged in the material. We all agreed that spending some time away from our screens and devices was not a bad idea. Which led us to agree that slowing down and getting back to pen and paper might be an even bigger idea.

Back to basics

Getting back to pen and paper in a high-tech world is like swimming against the tide. We agreed that both notebooks and devices have places of usefulness. We all love our devices for keeping lists, maintaining appointments, and keeping up with social media. We also all found great joy in RECEIVING a handwritten note, whether it is one tucked into a suitcase before a trip or a card delivered in the mail. And we realized that SENDING a handwritten note could generate just as much joy.

Because we work in the online world, we wondered how might this relate to responding to reviews. Did slowing down and focusing on context have a place in responding? We believe so. If you just focus on the verbatim complaints in the review, you miss the emotion the guest is sharing. If you cannot put the review into context from the guest’s perspective, you miss the story. If you slow down, focus on the elements of the review, and then respond with relevant emotion and tact, you can change the dialogue. Just as taking notes by hand slows down the process and encourages the writer to listen and think about what is heard, we can slow down and reflect on the guest’s story.

Enjoy the revival

Over the years, I have encouraged my children to make note cards to study. I have required them to write thank you notes. I wanted to share my belief that writing by hand has benefits. Recently, my daughter graduated from high school, and though it took her all summer, she finally completed her thank you notes just before she left for college. I did not proofread them – just addressed the envelopes and popped them in the mail. Later, both my mother-in-law and my sister made a point to tell me how much they enjoyed my daughter’s notes, how touched they were to receive them. They described them as charming and funny and lively, just like my daughter.

Our ability to improve our understanding with pen and paper, my family’s joy at that tiny moment in a day, for those reasons alone I believe it is worthwhile to slow down and write by hand. And the team here agrees. We have challenged ourselves to send a handwritten note, to close our devices and give more attention during a meeting. We’re embracing the handwriting revival!

Christine Lambert, contributing blogger and fellow social butterfly, is a communications consultant with more than 25 years working in wide variety of communications roles. She spent more than a decade working with hotels and hotel brands to amplify their messages with internal and external customers.  iResponze® partners with hotels by responding to online reviews on their behalf. This collaboration allows staff to focus on what they do best – deliver exceptional guest experiences.

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