Last week, we received a letter from our home heating oil supplier, Cubby Oil & Energy. The letter was heartfelt, honest, and provided valuable information.
Unlike most “Dear Valued Customer” letters, this one wasn’t a generic message sent unsigned. The Cubby letter was sent by the company president to address the spike in energy costs and I appreciated it very much.
With energy prices increasing dramatically, consumers are concerned about what it means for their family budget. Cubby proactively reached out to let their customers in the Boston area know their perspective on the issue.
The letter makes me happy I am a Cubby customer. It also serves as an interesting example for all marketers who need to communicate difficult news.
How to write a great customer letter
Let’s look at the elements that make the letter work:
The letter is from the right person in the company
Unlike a generic letter from nobody, Charlie Uglietto, President of Cubby Oil & Energy put his name on the communications. That’s great.
Outline the concerns
Right at the top of the letter, Uglietto addresses what’s on people’s mind. He doesn’t sugarcoat it.
“People are astounded by how much prices have risen, and how fast, and they also want to understand why this has occurred. They are also concerned that there will be interruptions in supply that will cause them to run out of fuel to keep their homes and families warm and safe.”
Provide detailed information on what’s happening
Rather than a generic “your business is important to us”, Uglietto gives us some inside information on what’s happening in the heating oil market. I found this detail fascinating.
“To give you a sense of how this affects us and you, on March 2nd, we received a notice at night from our heating oil suppliers that their prices were going up 20 cents the next morning at 8 am. Then, on March 3rd, they went up three more times for a total of 60 cents per gallon in just 24 hours, ultimately increasing more than $1.25 per gallon by the end of the week.”
Address conspiracy theories head on
I’ve always assumed that when prices rise, heating oil companies make more money. According to Uglietto, that’s not true and he provides an explanation.
“Some people are under the misconception that when prices rise, we make more money. The opposite is true. Customers may cut back on usage, some have trouble paying their bills, and our account receivables skyrocket. Meanwhile, we must pay our employees, cover our rising overhead costs, and pay our fuel suppliers in less than 10 days or possibly lose our ability to pick up heating oil for our customers. This requires us to borrow much more money than usual from our bank. This is an extremely difficult situation for everyone.”
Put people at ease
Uglietto reminds us that Cubby Oil & Energy has been in business for a long time. This is not a direct sales pitch as many companies might have done. Instead, it serves to remind customers like me that we made the right choice in heating oil supplier. I am much less likely to switch from Cubby after this letter.
“One thing you can count on, though, is that barring a global catastrophe, we will not let you run out of fuel. We have been in business for over 77 years and we have very strong relationships with suppliers and financial institutions.”
Offer to help those in need
When prices rise quickly, people on tight budgets or fixed incomes suffer. Uglietto offers to help.
“If you have having trouble paying your bill, please call and talk to us. Many times, we can work out something to give you more time to remit payment. Our goal is to keep you warm and worry-free even in these uncertain and trying times.”
Go Cubby! I'm a fan!
This is the kind of letter that I wish other companies would send. I’ve learned from it and I hope you have too.