Customer Service E-Mail In A "Do Not Call" World

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Build Relationships The national "Do Not Call" list and anti-spam laws present new challenges for marketers. With customers saying, "don't call us, don't spam us" how can you market your products and services? Take another look at your customer service e-mail. E-mail responses to customers who ASK to hear from you provide an important marketing opportunity. Customer service e-mail may be the last wide-open channel companies have for communicating with customers.

Here are five ways to transforming routine customer service e-mail into e-mail that markets a relationship … with you.

1. Solve customers' problems quickly and completely. They'll be grateful! And grateful customers will tell their friends about your company’s great products and services. "Do you believe it? They sent me the part I needed for my laptop by 10 a.m. the next day!"  Great customer service e-mail can be the foundation for the best kind of viral marketing.            
2. Strengthen your relationship with your customer.  After delivering service by e-mail, send a follow-up message to see if the customer is satisfied with the service he received or the product or information he asked for. Ask “Was your problem satisfactorily resolved?” or “Did you get the information you requested?”
3. Offer relevant information. You could close your e-mail with something like this: "We’re glad to have solved the problem with your laptop battery.  And we thought you’d like to know that we have a way to protect you from unanticipated and expensive repairs.  Check out our service agreement..."            
4. Ask permission to contact the customer again. Customer service e-mail gives you the opportunity to ask customers to opt in to other kinds of e-mail communication.  For example, ask “Would you like to subscribe to our free newsletter for laptop owners?  It features trouble-shooting tips you can use right away.”                                                                                                            
5. Add offers to customer service e-mail.  Reward customers who have communicated with you by e-mail.  Include relevant special offers in your customer service e-mail response: a discount on the next purchase, a two-month product trial, a valuable research report for free.  Be sure your offers are targeted to what you know about your customer’s buying history and interests. Your customer will keep reading—and buying—when your customer service messages contain valuable offers.

A Customer Service E-Mail That Goes The Extra Mile
Here's an example of a customer service e-mail response that goes beyond the traditional and works hard to build a relationship with a potential customer.

Subject: Re: Request for two rooms on Dec. 27-28
Dear Linda,
Thanks for your e-mail asking us whether you could book two rooms on December 27 and 28 for our New Year's Champagne Weekend.  We're sorry to tell you that we are fully booked for that weekend.
However, our affiliate property, Highland Inn, has a similar New Year's Champagne Weekend, and they are still taking reservations for that package. Many of our guests have also stayed at Highland Inn and have been very happy there.  If you'd like to make a reservation at Highland Inn, please call them at 1-800-555-3042.  
We have special events and packages all year. Our quarterly newsletter gives advance notice of these events. That way, you can make reservations early, so we won't have to disappoint you again. May I sign you up for this newsletter?
We hope you'll be celebrating the New Year at Highland Inn and that you will join us for Valentine's Day—or one of our other special weekends.
Jim McKee
Wild Duck Inn 

In Brief

With customers saying "don't call us, don't spam us" customer service e-mail may be the last wide-open channel for communicating with customers. Here are five ways to transform routine customer service e-mail into e-mail that markets a relationship--with you.

(c) E-WRITE, 2004 - 2009.

Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O'Flahavan are partners in E-WRITE, a training and consulting company that specializes in writing for online readers. Rudick and O'Flahavan are authors of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents