Inbound E-Mail Marketing’s Importance

When a consumer has a good experience, she tells one person; when she has a bad experience, she tells 10. I recently found this to be true when a series of bad service issues happened to me.

The interesting part about my poor experiences was, in the end, the only way I could communicate with the companies about my experiences was through e-mail. I find this fascinating because, many times, we e-mail marketers focus solely on outbound efforts and tend to forget that so many of our brand advocates, or brand advocates gone bad, can be identified, communicated with, and turned into brand ambassadors using e-mail.

Here’s a recap of my adventure, which I related to the companies involved via e-mail.

I’m a road warrior. I travel to two to three cities per week, every week. The red eye is my bedroom most nights.

I’m not a periodic traveler or a complainer. I’m very used to travel mishaps, delays, and so on. But never have I been treated as poorly as I was by these companies.

While in California, my office manager booked two nights in a hotel for myself and three other business colleagues for a trip to Washington, D.C. One colleague and I were set to arrive late in the evening.

After beginning my day with a 2.5 hour drive to the airport, a 6 hour flight, and a 5 hour drive to D.C., at 1:30 a.m. my colleague and I attempted to check in at our hotel. We were told by the desk clerk that my reservation didn’t exist and that the other reservation did, but when he tried to pull up the existing reservation in the system it showed invalid.

We stood at the desk for an hour while the desk clerk sat on the phone with the booking service. The service told him there were no reservations in the system and to call back in the morning. Then he told us he was sold out for the night, and we were left to find our own hotel.

I immediately called the booking service for a hotel I stay at quite a bit and spoke to an amazing woman. She told me I had to prepay but found us rooms!

When we arrived at the new hotel, the desk clerk told us the rooms were sold out, but if we paid double for the night he could find a spot for us. It was 3:30 in the morning. We had no choice. We paid extra and checked in.

The next day, when our office manager called the first hotel’s booking service she was told that the hotel booked us as no-shows and refused to credit the reservation. They wondered why we never made it to the hotel to check in.

After my disastrous adventure, I tried to call each of the four companies involved. Three of the companies immediately directed me to their Web sites to use a form to communicate my issue.

One company’s representative listened to my issue and actually had the nerve to say, “Wow, if I turn this in, the person who serviced you will get in trouble. That’s not very fair. Maybe I should just let it go. What do you think?”

For that company, you’d better believe I went to the Internet e-mail form. And then, yes, I told more than 10 people about all four companies.

Out of my four e-mails, one company replied within one hour, acknowledging my issue, apologizing, and offering me a gift to try it again. I don’t need the gift. That isn’t what I was looking for.

But the fast response to my inbound e-mail gave me reason to share the good resolution with all those who hear my tale. Interestingly, when its outbound e-mail marketing message arrived in my inbox (as it does every week), I actually looked forward to opening it because I felt like somehow I had built a stronger relationship with the company.

The bottom line is your e-mail marketing strategy should absolutely consider inbound messages, as they can very well be a key to increased sales and strengthened relationships.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center. Spend Day 1 learning about social media and video strategies with ClickZ.

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