A cleaned up email strategy can only get you so far

In April 2015 there was an industry article about Stanley Steamer “cleaning up” its email and direct mail strategies.

In the article they focus very specifically on delivering a clean and seamless customer experience through email and direct mail strategies.

But what difference does cleaning up your email strategy make if there is a fundamental flaw in your business?

Let me give you the back story. Not long ago my mother decided to have Stanley Steamer come to her home to clean and seal her grout on all the tile in her house. It has a wonderful online tool where you can pop in measurements and they provide your cost estimate and allow you schedule a visit right online.

The next business day she received a follow-up call confirming the details, an email confirming the appointment and the estimate and all was set to get her grout sealed.

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The gentlemen came to her house, and before they got started they measured everything again. Now, had she missed a few details? Yes. Like the fact that she had tile smaller than 5X5 in her shower and didn’t measure the tile walls in the shower – so from estimate to reality – the price doubled.

But at a hefty price of $450 she decided it was worth it and continued on. Overall, she was happy with the service and told me about it so I could look in to Stanley Steamer for my needs– word of mouth advertising at its best.

So I started the process online, making sure to not make the same mistakes my mom made. I included great detail, measured everything and got back a quote of $390.

On my follow up phone call, again, I was very specific. I told the woman of the 2×2 tile on my shower floor, the large walk in shower, the pantry in my kitchen and even the small hall that connects my kitchen to the laundry room.

Details. Real, meaningful details. I was told the price would go up $75 due to the small tile in the bathroom and that I should expect the price to be around $465. OK. I can live with that.

Post phone call my confirmation email landed in my inbox– still with the $390 price estimate. So clearly the woman I spoke with did not update the details – but I figured it was $75 bucks – no big deal – until the day of my appointment when the crew came to clean.

Same as at my mom’s – they remeasured everything, but this time, they got the same measurements that I provided on the estimate and all of the same detail I provided to the scheduler.

The price however, not so much – it skyrocketed to $980! To clean and seal my tile? Uh, no thank you. After a lot of arguing with the office staff – they agreed to discount the service $60. Uh, no thank you. So I sent the very nice men on their way.

But this experience got me to thinking – what good is a streamlined order and scheduling experience, coupled with a seamless email strategy if you can’t even get the delivery of the service right? A number of things broke down in this process – but if we look at the email alone – what could have been better? Here would be my recommendation to the fine folks at Stanley Steamer:

1.Keep the confirmation factual and accurate

The email confirmation I received following my phone call with the scheduler was just wrong.

If you are going to invest in the costly act of calling all your customers (which, in a service situation like this, I think is worth the cost to the business – IF that person is doing their job and doing it right). Even after providing details to the woman I spoke with on the phone, the details in my email confirmation were wrong.

If you’re going to send an email following the call, send an email that accurately reflects the conversation. For example, I didn’t have 2 bathrooms – it was a bathroom and a laundry room – which is not accurately represented in the email.

The cost was to go up $75 from the original quote received at the time of scheduling because of the small tiles in my bathroom. Again, not accurately reflected in the email I received. In the dynamic and immediate world of email these are both big misses.

2. Provide some tips and tricks to ease the pain and set some expectations

Clearly there is a potential for discrepancy in what the homeowner measures and what the professionals measure when they actually come to do the work.

It appears that this is a pretty consistent problem – and I say that not because of the fact that it happened to both my mother and I but because the very nice gentlemen that came to my home told me that it is a consistent problem.

Why not include some information in the email to set some expectations – like prices can fluctuate by 50-100% — and here are some reasons why that happens. Further allow that customer to call back in to adjust the estimate if any of “these things” apply to you.

3.Up-sell appropriately

In the email it calls out the fact that it isn’t too late to add a service. Except that one of the services they are offering me, I already have scheduled.

This demonstrates a lack of logic within the email communication. Instead, why not share information like what the guys shared with me when they got to my house – the fact that I won’t be able to clean my tile floor with certain cleaners anymore because it will eat away at the seal they were going to put on it.

And, oh, by the way, we offer a great solution that you can use to maintain the seal and the quality clean after we are gone. It is a great opportunity to up-sell – it just isn’t being used effectively.

I appreciate that Stanley Steamer wanted to provide a better marketing and scheduling experience for the customer, but if the process allows for such big misses in effectively setting client expectations the front end effort is moot.

The take away? Cleaning up your email strategy isn’t enough to make up for a flawed business. No matter how great the email strategy is.

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