We Said What?! A Frightening Review of Your Customer Messaging

How often do you check messages going out to your customers?

I don’t mean the nicely crafted messages designed by your marketing team. I am referring to system-generated messages triggered by online transactions including support and billing.

These messages effect your brand as much as your well crafted marketing messages.

I am willing to bet that there are messages being triggered that you are not even aware of! A message recently took me by surprise and I want to spare you similar embarrassment, or loss in revenue.

Review Auto Responder Messages

Auto responder emails can save you a tremendous amount of time but they can also be your biggest source of embarrassment. I confess that we have had more than one embarrassing incident involving auto responder messages. Let me share the latest one.

As you may already know, we encourage new visitors to try out our online survey tool for free for 14 days. During the 14 days we send out 4 email auto responder messages. The first one is a welcome message we send out on day 1. It introduces the new user to our online tutorials, webinars, and support team should they have any questions or need assistance.

Nothing critical is contained in this messages but it makes a friendly first impression by letting new trailers know that we are glad they are checking us out and that we are here to help them.

But what would happen if we didn’t send this message? If ever there was a good marketing experiment this is one!

After a few hands on our team made small edits to this email message, which is triggered automatically after signing up for a free trial, it did not get turned back on. It was turned off for an entire week before we noticed a drop in our trial to upgrade conversion rate. We were losing revenue!

Of course we immediately turned it on once we identified the problem, but guess what? As soon as we did the system recognized those that had not received the message and immediately sent it out. What was supposed to be a timely message was a week late! This didn’t make a good impression.

We have also had auto responder messages go out when they should not have.

On the 12th day of our 14 day trial, our trial customers receive a message to upgrade their account before it expires. There was a short period of time where subscribers who immediately upgraded after receiving the message were not removed from the next auto responder list. Two days later they still received a message letting them know that their trial had expired but it was not too late to upgrade.

This didn’t make a good impression. These customer were sure they had upgraded and been billed. Of course we apologized, corrected the situation, and threw in a little extra, but this is a mistake you want to avoid!

So what can you do to prevent these embarrassing situations?

Discovering Neglected Messages

Review your customer touch points on a regular basis. Make sure that your website navigation is clear. Are there any broken links? Are the messages you received relevant and helpful? Are there any gaps in communication?

6 Ways to Avoid Embarrassment:

  1. Walk Through Your Sales Funnel
  2. Start at the top of your sales funnel and walk through every step and option to completion. Then back track!

    Once, after making some subscription changes to plan levels within our application, users were not able to complete the trial signup process. We quickly caught this mistake ourselves, but we might have lost a trial or two in the process.

  3. Try Upgrading or Downgrading Your Product
  4. Let’s say your purchase process was smooth and there were no communication hiccups. But what if you upgrade or downgrade to the next plan level. Are there any glitches there? Problems here may not be readily apparent.

    Which brings me to share another embarrassing story. . .

    We allow our customers to suspend their account at any time. This is a great option if you will not be conducting a survey for a while but still want access to your data and reports. The Suspended plan is $5.00/mo. A system message is generated once you suspend your account notifying you of the new plan level, change in features, and cost. But guess what? Thirty days later our billing system (which is not tied to our application) still billed suspended users for the full monthly subscription! Some unhappy customers let us know about this right away!

    Not a smooth move on our part. We offered apologies, extras, and a bite of humble pie for ourselves.

    Wbich brings me to my next suggestion . . .

  5. Check After Application or System Changes
  6. Always run a message test when a change is made to your Application!
    It is important that you, as a marketer, stay in your development team’s communication loop.

    While your QA department is doing a fine job of testing the new or slightly modified feature, they may not be checking for messages around it. Someone needs to! Know when an application change has been implemented and test it yourself.

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  7. Signup for Your Own Newsletter
  8. Try signing up for your blog or newsletter. If you require a double opt-in, make sure the verification message is sent.

  9. Review Your Payment Method
  10. If your Application accepts recurring payment, try changing your credit card or billing information. Make sure a message is displayed letting users know the status of the change. It can be frustrating to receive no message at all, especially if you repeat the process several times to make sure it was completed.

  11. Send Yourself Past Due Notices
  12. What kind of message do you send your customers when a payment is past due? You may think that this is billing’s responsibility but don’t be so quick to pass it off. The message after all reflects your organization. Is it a gentle reminder or is it a tad harsh?

    Another true story . . .

    Not too long ago we discovered a system-generated message that was triggered when a customer invoice was past due. This message was sent the day after the invoice was due. It was in all caps and said “YOUR ACCOUNT IS IN ARREARS”.

    Wow, that is a bit harsh. All caps suggests we are screaming at them plus the term “arrears” has negative collection connotations. We never refer customers to collections.

    It turns out that this message was implemented by our billing departing over 5 years ago. In all fairness, I have to say it was effective; customers who needed access to their accounts were calling right away. But they weren’t happy.

    Stuff happens and life gets in the way. We get it. Do we want to be remembered for a harsh message or the great tool and service we provide?

Create a Positive Customer Experience

There are many places throughout your sales funnel, support, or billing cycle that your message may not be what you intended. Make sure your messages reflect your organization’s culture and leave a lasting positive impression.

Don’t think you are spared a communication audit process just because you have an automated marketing tool. Running on auto-pilot is not a guarantee that things will always run smoothly.

Feeling brave? Share your embarrassing communication message and helpful tips to prevent future ones!

Written by

Sandy McKee

Sandy McKee is a digital marketer with over 10 years of experience in SEM, SEO, and social media marketing. She is a lover of books, fine food, and a mother of 2.

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