Email Marketers: Customer Service DOs and DON'Ts
I rarely give out my email address when I am asked for it at a retail store.
Two weeks ago, I made an exception. I bought a basketful of products at Sephora after a knowledgable and attentive sales person spent about half an hour with me. She didn’t pressure me. She listened well. And she made several good recommendations as we talked. As a result, I bought many more things than I had expected to when I first walked into the store. This was great customer service. And I was a very satisfied customer.
So, when I was asked at the register for my email address, I willingly gave it. My expectation was that my positive experience would be extended through the emails the company sent.
Boy was I wrong.
Every day for two weeks, I’ve received an email from Sephora. Now, I shop for cosmetics maybe four times a year. And these daily emails are trying to sell me all kinds of things I don’t ever buy — and don’t need and don’t want. This email marketing is not just unsuccessful, it’s annoying.
Worse, it hasn’t just soured me on the brand’s marketing, it’s soured me on the brand.
Today, after I got the daily unwanted email, I was about to search for a way to unsubscribe from all emails from the company when another one arrived in my inbox. I thought that it might be a personal response to the Tweet I had just sent about the frequent and unwanted emails. Nope. This one asked me to write a review of the products I bought in the store. Are you kidding me?
I am writing this blog post instead.
First of all, if a brand is using a social media channel, it should be responding to customers who communicate through it, not just broadcasting. A day later, Sephora has yet to respond to my Tweet.
What “opting in” should mean
Second, let’s look more closely at what is often referred to “opting in.” This is marketing magic, and it forms the backbone of inbound marketing, where a brand communicates with customers who’ve already signaled their interest. They’re fans. And they’ve made that known by opting in, or providing their information and allowing the brand to contact them.
That’s great. To a point.
But opting in does not mean each customer wants the same frequency and kind of communication.
It would’ve been so easy to ask me — right from the start — how often I wanted to get emails. Or which products I wanted to hear about. Let me opt in with a little discretion. If Sephora had sent me an initial email with a few of these questions I would still be a customer. And I would still gladly walk into a store.
Someone else might, indeed, want 365 notices a year about Sephora products. They might want to know about every range and kind of product the company sells. Great, so allow that customer to opt in to that saturation. Or, at least let me opt out of it! I opted out of all emails — hardly the outcome a brand wants from its email marketing efforts aimed at an initially satisfied customer.
Ironically, when I looked for the link to unsubscribe to all emails, I found a link to make the emails less frequent. But I had to search for it. It made me do the work. That’s not customer service. That’s customer self-service. Email marketing gone way wrong is much worse than none at all.
Early on, ask your customers
That brings me to the last point. When I unsubscribed, only then was I asked for some feedback. Was I receiving too many emails? Did I have a bad online experience? (I tried to check more than one box, but was allowed to pick only one reason.)
Why wait to ask a customer for feedback until she is fleeing? That makes no sense. Asking me after the first or second email could’ve kept me as a customer. It’s too late, now. I’m already gone.
Brands can’t serve customers well by assuming they all want the same thing. Ask them. Or look at the analytics of who’s opening the emails. (I wasn’t.) Technology makes it so easy to customize email marketing. It’s easy. It works. And it’s essential to good customer service.
But for goodness sakes, do it before it’s an exit interview on the unsubscribe page.
Let me know what you think.
Becky worked as a journalist for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C.; Sydney, Australia; and Cleveland, Ohio for major publications including the New York Times, Salon.com, Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and was Associate Editor of the Plain Dealer's Editorial Page before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC. The company helps clients improve their external relations ...
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