What A Workout! A Cautionary Tale Of Transactional Messaging

Lately I’ve been noticing more and more examples of poor cross-channel marketing and just downright bad customer service when it comes to digital transactional messaging.

For example, this week I signed up for a membership to an online personal training/ fitness organization, where I get paired with a personal trainer who develops an exercise and meal plan for me and provides encouragement.  Getting started on a fitness regimen before the holidays sounded like a good plan to me!

To begin, I completed a questionnaire asking about dietary and workout preferences. A triggered email stated that my trainer would review the information and deliver my personalized plan within 48 hours. Exciting! In the meantime, I downloaded the company’s application to my smartphone.  When I tried to log in, I was met with an error message: password invalid.  Thwarted!  Okay, I ditched the app and went to log into the website.  Same error. What was going on? I tried resetting my password, but kept getting the message “Error: Reset code invalid.” I couldn’t find a phone number on the website, so I was relegated to emailing the company for help.



What I got back was an auto-responder saying that they were looking into my issue. In the meantime, I also received an email that my meal plan and workout program had arrived.  Ooh, the temptation! It was like dangling a carrot. The plan had arrived but I couldn’t access it. I was more anxious than before!

One day later, I got an email saying that I needed to follow up my request for help at a specific link -- which led to a page where I needed to log in with my username and password. I emailed back to tell them that I couldn’t log in, and they finally replied with a password reset link. Eureka! 

The techie in me wanted to know why the reset link originating from their support desk worked while I couldn’t reset the password myself, but I let it go -- and instead focused on the personalized plan in front of me. I also wanted to learn more about the personal trainer with whom I’d been paired, so I clicked on the link to her bio.  "Oops something went wrong. We're looking into the issue and will have a fix soon."  Sigh.

After clicking the only button on the error page, "Return Home," I was transferred to the website home page and noticed I had been automatically logged out. I tried to log in again, and you guessed it: my password was invalid. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Marketers have to satisfy the consumer’s demand for precisely targeted and relevant messaging.  Taking in factors such as the consumer’s context and motivators are becoming more important to doing this effectively. So where should you start?

Know the Present Tense Context of Your Customer

Your customer is poised to interact with your brand in a variety of ways, via a variety of channels. As in the example above, the customer’s next interaction can change moment to moment based on a number of factors. This is the present-tense context of the customer.

Being aware of this context enables you to respond precisely. It requires listening (taking in interaction and context data) and understanding (modeling the customer state). You must augment prior static models of the customer lifecycle with dynamic processes that continually reassess the customer state.

Act in the Now

A marketer’s understanding of customer context should not be static, but continually evolving.  In my case, the brand should not ask me to log in to view my meal and workout plan when my password isn’t working.

In addition to customer data, marketing and technology systems -- as well as external contextual data -- will be necessary to execute programs that can truly meet a customer where she is.

Create Messages that Address a Customer’s Movement and Growth

Acknowledge and address the customer’s current state – but don’t stop there.  Plan to send messages in accordance with the natural progression a recipient takes through the customer journey. What should and/or will she do next? This will create a true 1:1 relationship and is the key to a “fully baked” marketing program.

Food for Thought

At the time of writing, I still cannot click to find out more about my trainer, for fear it will invalidate my password.  And I am unable to log into the smartphone application, which would make calorie-counting during the day much easier to manage.

This is an excellent example of why marketers should strive to meet a customer exactly where she is in the present moment. Take this as “food for thought” that can seriously impact your bottom line.

2 comments about "What A Workout! A Cautionary Tale Of Transactional Messaging ".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, November 7, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.

    What a horror story! Sounds as though this organization has two computer systems, that are only loosely connected, and some signup failure gave you an account that works with one (which might be called the "Web front end"), but not with the other (which drives their app and provides more detailed information). So you kept making a little progress with one and then getting blocked by the other. Don't think it's really down to Transactional Messaging though.

  2. Leslie Nolen from The Radial Group, November 10, 2013 at 10:55 p.m.

    A ridiculously awful experience, but I don't think the lesson here has much to do with transactional msgs and customer context.

    When your core service is providing a professional service which integrates online and email channels, and this is the best you can do, what we have here is actually a complete service delivery breakdown and thus a fatally flawed "product." Much more serious than a transactional email hiccup, IMO.

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