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Email Mistakes That Destroy Customer Trust

Aug 17, 2007
Is email your company's friend or foe? It depends on how you use it, how important new customers are to you, and how much you value existing customer relations.

I was going to order a bunch of custom embroidered polo shirts for our team to wear at an industry event. I went to a well-known company, one I had ordered from in the past, and using a form on their web site I sent them the artwork for a free estimate of the process and the cost.

Nothing happened. There was no confirmation message and no message saying that the email had bounced. I forgot about it. Back in 1997 I might have called to ask if they received the email. Today we all simply assume that if it doesn't bounce back within a few hours - it was received.

It was four days later that I received the company's email newsletter promoting their products and telling me that there are just three more days to take advantage of a special sale.

I must say that was maddening. They had obviously received my request for a quote - since opting in to their email announcements was part of the process. And the email address their newsletter was sent to was the same one I used when registering on their web site. An address used sparingly.

So how likely am I to do business with them?

If they had responded to my submission saying that they would get right on it and send me the quote within the next - whatever period of time - and then delivered on that promise, I would have been pleased. That is what I expected.

I expected to hear from them acknowledging that my potential business was important and that they were paying attention.

Last summer I bought a small sailcloth duffle bag, the size for taking to the beach or as a carryon on the plane. The sailcloth is resilient and as it wears it will take on a persona of its own - like your favorite jeans or loafers.

I bought it because I saw it on a local infomercial where we were vacationing - a retailers in the area piece. The company is a third or forth generation family business. I have interviewed for publication over 100 family business owners - so I thought, hey maybe these people will talk to me. I'll get a great story and they'll get some PR.

The company's web site was a first generation looking ecommerce web site. There was a single contact email, you know info@ so I had to send "To Whom It May Concern" sort of message.

I told them how much I loved the duffle and how pleased I was to learn of their family business and could we talk? I sent a link to 50 or so business owner stories we had published without charge in the past. I wanted to make it clear that this was no a solicitation of any kind.

Nothing happened. I expected something. I was a new customer - maybe I would buy more stuff in the future. I was offering to tell their story. Instead nothing.

How do you think this makes me feel about the duffle bag I just bought? How many more duffle bags will I (or anyone I know) buy from them?

Common courtesy demands that you respect your customers if you expect them to do business with you in the future.

A couple of months ago I had a little software script installed on our web site. It probably took the software creator fifteen minutes to set it up. Inexplicably two weeks ago it quit working properly.

My detailed explanation and answers to their questions and all the other back and forth between the developer and myself had been done using their automated support ticket system.

Rather than start this process again I logged on to their support area and re-opened the previously closed support ticket.

Four days went by and nothing happened. I opened a new support ticket and briefly re-stated the problem referencing the previous support ticket - so I would not have to recreate the entire message again from scratch.

Two more days went by and a colleague of the developer contacted me to say that there was no record of the original support ticket.

It had been deleted, but the system did not tell me that when I re-opened it. Now I have to start the entire explanation process all over with a different person. This is maddening.

So, the problem has still not been solved. I expected better treatment from people I regularly spend money with. I "know" they received the messages because I was taken to a thank you page after sending the messages.

And during the three plus weeks (so far) that have gone by with no customer satisfaction I have received numerous solicitations for more of their products and services.

I am not naive. I know these sales emails were sent automatically on a schedule requiring little if any time on their part. Nevertheless some effort should have been made to make those of us waiting for service feel better about our situation.

Instead, even though I know it's all automatic, I get daily reminders that they are more interested selling new stuff than they are servicing what they have already sold.

This is not a good business building technique if you ask me.

What do your customers think about you? Are you paying attention? Are you listening? Do you telegraph how much or how little you care about them and their business?

If you have the courage, ask your mother to use every form on your web site, contact you with service requests, and new business quotes, etc.

If you REALLY have courage have your mother ask one of her friends, someone important to her that you don't know to test your email responsiveness.

You won't have to wait long or invest any money to get the real opinions of real people.
About the Author
To leverage the best practices of your contemporaries for greater profits read about the http://www.21stCenturyPeerGroups.com process. Wayne Messick is an experienced family business consultant whose web site offers thousands of free resources for business owners at http://www.iBizResources.com
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