Leveraging Email For Pro-Active Customer Service

It’s that time of year when kids get to dress up and go door-to-door asking for candy from strangers. With three kids at home, the conversations about “what do youwant to be for Halloween?” started months ago.

For my daughter, who will be attending her first middle school dance, the pressure was on to find the “perfect” costume. So we got ahead of the game by picking a costume and ordering it online at BuyCostumes in early October (the dance was Oct. 22).

The email confirmation came with a guarantee of receipt by Oct. 19 — so, while closer to the big event than I had hoped, it was still guaranteed.

Well the 19 came and went, and no costume. I called and I was told that my “guarantee came with no assurances.” Wait, what? After a lot of time with customer service people on the phone, they offered to cancel my order — so that I can do what, head to the picked over Halloween store to find her a random costume? No way!



What does this have to do with email? Email is a great channel to manage customer expectations. After over an hour on the phone I found out that, first, orders that were placed in August and September were also delayed; second, that delays were stemming from an issue with their warehouse; and third, their call center was being inundated with angry customers.

BuyCostumes could have easily managed expectations with timely email communications to customers with pending orders that were going to be affected by these delays. Things go wrong and customers understand that. We just expect some communication.

Here are three easy emails you can implement when things aren’t going quite as planned.

Delivery Delays
When a brand commits to a delivery date, consumers expect that it’s an honest commitment that will be honored. The consumer has no reason to believe otherwise until the expectation isn’t met. Instead of delivering a sub-par experience, give the customer a little heads-up. Use this message to set expectations accordingly, including information like what is causing the delay, how it is being addressed and when the items may arrive.

Apology Message
A preemptive apology always means more than when customers ask for it. Their delivery date has come and gone, they are complaining on the phone and your customer service team apologizes. Why not do so before your customer sits on hold? Send an email apologizing for the delay -- and turn the experience around. Provide an incentive: upgraded shipping on the current order and the next. Take this moment to be humble and pro-actively recognize the error.

Daily Status
Every day beyond the expected delivery date could be a day that is causing your customers angst – which is never an emotion you want them to have. In this situation, sending a daily status update lets consumers know that you are still working to resolve the issue and that they are important. You may not have new news every day, but the touch demonstrates  that you care.

Will I shop BuyCostumes again next year — as I have for the last five years? Probably.  After I sent a tweet about my dissatisfaction with the service, they took care of my order and provided a tracking number within minutes, and the costume was delivered the day before the dance.   My daughter was happy (and looked beautiful!), which made me happy.

I get it -- things happen. How a brand addresses problems is what will determine my future engagement. But the frustration could have been alleviated completely with a little pro-active messaging.

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