In the business world where live streaming services, social media, and online marketplaces have replaced in-person interactions, handwritten note cards are making a comeback, but in a modern way.
Many are written by bots.
Robot-written cards that mimic human handwriting allow companies to send more personalized messages to lots of customers at the same time, with much greater speed and accuracy than if they were typed by hand. Several Maine businesses that use Handwrytten have said that notes stand out to customers who receive them, which helps retain customers and gain new ones.
“It’s really a great way to cut through the chaos and establish a one-on-one connection with someone that will make more sense,” said Alden Millar, digital director at Portland-based marketing firm Space Pilot Digital.
Millar uses Handwrytten on behalf of its clients, to help them develop and grow their social media presence. It looks for social media influencers who have posted information about a customer’s product and mails them a box of products, along with a card written by the bot. The card that arrives on their desk stands out among all the web traffic they get.
His company sends out about 100 banknotes a month to each of its 15 clients. Millar estimates that having a robot type them out saves about 10 hours per customer per month over handwriting. He can choose different writing styles depending on each client’s preference. Cards average $3.75 each plus postage.
Handwrytten, based in Arizona, has a warehouse full of 175 robots that write letters to business partners, birthday cards to parents, and holiday cards to friends.
The bots write each card individually, based on wording from the customer, and mail it in. They use a Pilot pen and try to mimic the look and feel of human handwriting. Millar and others who use the service can either choose from 23 handwriting styles offered by the company or submit their own handwriting style, which an automated system analyzes and replicates. Users can design their own card online or choose from over 100 that the company offers.
“The robot arms hold a real ballpoint pen and are programmed to write like a human — not ideal,” said Handwrytten CEO David Wax.
The bot takes into account character variation and changes the height and width of individual characters. If one sentence contains multiple words with double os and double Ls, each will sound different. The left margin varies so that not every line starts at the same edge. Robots write with a curvature that makes it look like people aren’t writing in perfect handwriting.
“They can even recreate the ink smear you get when writing with a pen,” said Trinity Dean, Northstar Mortgage Group office manager in Wyndham.
Northstar uses the service to send greeting cards when a customer gets pre-approved for a mortgage or closes on a home. If the home fails to sell, the mortgage lender remains in contact with the customer, suggesting that they return when they are ready.
“We’ve found it helps with customer retention,” she said. “Receiving little cards in the mail shows we’re going the extra mile, so they’re more likely to work with us.”
It can help in today’s real estate market, where Rising interest rates slow down the number of buyers looking for mortgages. When her company sent robot-written cards to landlords trying to get them to work, a few of them sent referrals to the mortgage company.
The Northstar Mortgage Group of Windham uses a service that has bots that print personalized messages to congratulate customers on pre-qualifying for a loan or even closing on a home. Credit: Courtesy of Northstar Mortgage Group
Aubuchon, a hardware store chain with about 32 stores in Maine, is also targeting store customers who want to get them to buy online, too.
“The card feels like it came from the local store,” said Mike Mattson, vice president of marketing.
The card offered discounts of 30 percent or more on their first online purchase, and was more effective at getting people to try digital shopping than the flyers the store used to mail out.
Some people don’t like the idea of having a bot write to a human. said Yale Humanities Lecturer Ellen Handler Spitz Washington Post Earlier having a bot write to you “seems like total betrayal”. She said handwritten notes are special because they are intimate, with a human touching the paper.
Mattson and others using the technology said it resembled handwriting, and they had no complaints about it. However, in the fast-paced digital world where social media and other services are quickly going out of fashion, it is not clear whether customers are tired of bot services or the advent of better or newer technology.
“It won’t be long until agents get in,” he said.
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