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Customer Service E-Mail Can Compromise Sales E-Mail

  |  October 18, 2004   |  Comments

Most direct response businesses count on additional purchases to turn a profit. So why do they annoy customers with poor customer service e-mail?

We’ve all received email order confirmations. Some of us have even received confirmations via email when a gift is delivered. Implementing the tools to send such messages is easy. Still, consumers want improvements in email communications after the order is placed.

JupiterResearch (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) recently reported consumers demand improvements in many online ordering areas, including email. It surveyed 2,798 consumers. Here are some highlights:

  • 58 percent want improved updates on delivery delays.

  • 56 percent want faster email response.

  • 45 percent want multiple contact methods.

  • 38 percent want updates on earlier inquiries.

Bottom line: You spend money to acquire each customer. Whether via search, TV, print, direct mail, or any other method, each customer comes with a cost. Sometimes, you make a profit on the first order. Often, you don’t. Most direct response businesses rely on additional purchases to turn a profit.

So why do companies sometimes make life miserable for customers after the sale? Robust email programs can engender goodwill, instead of annoyance and frustration.

A colleague ordered software from a large organization. Here’s what happened:

  1. The organization sent the usual confirmation.

  2. Several days later, it sent a backorder notice. (Why it didn’t send this message to begin with is beyond me. Perhaps it ran out around the time of the order.)

  3. My friend responded to the form email. It took three days to receive a totally unsatisfactory answer: The company had no idea when the product would ship.

  4. He requested the company call him. Three days later, he got an email saying the company doesn’t make outgoing calls. Of course, the email didn’t supply a number he could call.

  5. An email then arrived stating the product had shipped. Of course, the company charged his credit card a week before shipping it.

Consumers are turned off by how they’re handled after they order. Companies turn potential repeat customers into people who fume, "That’s the last thing I’ll order from those ding-dongs." They undo all the hard work they put into acquisition email. The same thought and effort that goes into a sales messages must go into post-sale messages.

Customers care about when they’ll get their orders for many reasons:

  • The order is a gift that must arrive by a certain date.

  • It’s for a specific project with a deadline.

  • It’s for a trip with a set departure date.

And so on. When customers don’t get backorder announcements or delay notices don’t contain specific information, they get angry... fast. There’s no excuse for these gaffes.

There’s also no excuse for refusing to contact a customer by phone, fax, or any other method a customer requests. Customers can purchase similar or identical products from lots of other sources. Want to waste the money you spent to acquire customers in the first place? Don’t bother upgrading your systems.

What to Strive For

When you send post-sale email, customers should say, "Wow, what great service. They keep me informed. I have three ways to contact them. They’re on top of my order. I’m confident it will arrive on time."

In the email messages my friend received, they didn’t say, "I’m sorry," or, "We’ll do everything possible to get your order to you when you need it." The messages were about as cold and impersonal as they come.

Here’s a litmus test for writing any type of email: Pretend you’re talking to the recipient face-to-face. Surely, you’d choose words more carefully so as not to offend. Do the same with email messaging.

Every email is an opportunity to build a relationship with customers. E-mail is one of the most inexpensive tactics for improving customer service. Do that, and your relationship with a customer will be long and fruitful. Don’t, and every penny you spend to acquire that customer goes down the drain.

Keep reading...

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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Paul Soltoff

Paul Soltoff is the chief executive officer of SendTec, Inc., a direct marketing services company specializing in customer acquisition. SendTec combines extensive direct response experience with proprietary technologies to produce scalable results. Principal services include performance-based online marketing, offline direct response marketing and direct response television. SendTec represents advertising agencies and advertisers such as RealNetworks, AARP, Monster.com, AAA, Punch Software, MyPoints, Grey Worldwide, CosmetÍque Cosmetics, Columbia House, and Euro-Pro. Prior to starting SendTec, Paul was a founder and EVP of Saatchi and Saatchi's DRTV division in New York and has over 25 years of advertising, media and direct marketing experience.

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