The Dissection of a Terrible Automated Follow-Up Email

If you’re like me, you probably get automated sales emails from folks every day.

They usually start by saying something like, “Sorry to bug you”, or “I know you’re busy” … or an endless number of other cold intros.

These emails happen so frequently now that it’s pretty easy to spot the automated emails from a mile away.

Not too long ago it used to be that all you’d need to do was include someone’s name in an email and they’d respond immediately. Now, unless the email is written by a psychic, you’re not getting past the delete button.

Just as the human species has evolved, so have our abilities to decipher between authentic outreach and mass communication.

Much to the dismay of marketers everywhere, mass emails are becoming a way of the past. With an average response rate of less than 1%, you’re better off spending your time walking up and down your local neighborhood and knocking on doors.

With that said, they still kind of work, which is why we continue to see these types of emails fill our inboxes each and every day.

But, it’s not the brilliant mail merge that’s winning these customers over, it’s simply that the solution that’s being offered in the email is hitting the right person at the right time.

And, maybe that’s the point of mass email … to just shotgun the message and hope to hit a few along way.

For sales that might work, but for customer success … that’s a big fat no no.

Let me give you an example.

A few week’s ago, after completing an NPS survey, we received the following response:

automated follow up email

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-written message. It’s just that it’s … well, canned.

As we stated in a previous post, when it comes to closing the loop with your customers, automating responses according to scores is a terrible idea!

Why?

Aside from the missed opportunity of engaging with your customer on a deeper level and further building that relationship, it’s simply disrespectful.

Your customer willingly took time out of their busy day to provide you with information that YOU asked for. The least you can do is take a minute or two to thank them personally.

It honestly baffles me how often I’m engaged like this by someone after I complete a survey.

Following up, or “closing the loop”, is the most critical action that can be taken within the customer engagement process.

In fact, following up with your customer is SUCH an important step in the NPS survey process that we’ve built a robust follow-up process directly into our platform (we’re one of the only tools that offer it) to ensure our customers do it, and do it effectively. No need to worry about the how or the workflow, just put in the time to connect and drive the value from these opportunities. Every single response to your survey is a revenue generating OPPORTUNITY.

And there aren’t many opportunities to deeply engage in meaningful discussions with your customers, so don’t squander your chance when it’s available.

The good news is, it’s easy to do. Even without automation. The even better news is that it will completely transform the relationship you have with your customers.

Let’s break-down the response from the company above and see where they could have improved:

Thank you for providing feedback in our recent survey. At …, we are committed to your success.

Grade: A-

Acknowledging and thanking your customer for their feedback is always a great way to begin your follow up. So, no critiques there.

Also, it’s nice to be reminded that my success is important to this company, BUT unless my feedback was directly related to my desire to be successful, this sentence is just pure fluff.

This could have been improved by minimizing the corporate tone of those sentences and making it much more conversational.

i.e. “You answered our survey and we listened! Thank you for your incredible feedback. Now it’s time to put those words into action.”

We’re sorry that we have not met your expectations, but appreciate your feedback and will use it to continually improve the quality of your experience.

Grade: C

Kudos to this company for triggering a response that aligns with a negative (detractor) score and feedback. At the very least, the customer can now be assured that their algorithm works and the feedback was put into the correct bucket.

The BIG missed opportunity here is in not addressing (or at least highlighting) the specific issue(s) that the customer brought up. This is your chance as a company to, at minimum, reiterate their specific concerns.

i.e. “I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been disappointed in our customer support response time. I know how frustrating that wait can be.”

The even bigger opportunity is to digger deeper into their specific problem.

i.e. “I’d love to work with you individually on solving this problem. Would you being willing to share what a reasonable response time looks like for you?”

Alternatively, if their feedback is already being addressed internally, this would be your opportunity to share what’s being done to resolve their issue and when they can expect it.

Here are some resources that may help you in your … journey:

Grade: D

What’s good is that they’re at least providing their customer with some potentially helpful resources that they can use.

What’s bad is that the message the customer receives is, “Here are some places that may provide you with a solution so we don’t have to.”

This would be the equivalent of letting the barista know that your coffee is cold and rather than pour you a new cup, they point you to a self-service counter where a microwave may or may not exist.

No two customers are the same and as such, there certainly isn’t a one-size-fits all solution to every customer problem.

If you’d like to connect with our team to discuss your feedback, we would gladly set up a call.

Grade: B

I like their invitation to continue the conversation, but you know what would have been even better? Asking for the call themselves.

Rather than offering a passive invitation, they would have made the customer feel more valued with a meeting request.

i.e. “We’d love to hear more! Are you open to a sharing more with me/us over a brief phone call?”

Chances are that most customers won’t opt for the call, but simply asking can go a long way in showing how much they matter.

Thank you, … Team

Grade: F

Even if you’re still planning to automate your follow ups, at least make it appear that the response is coming from a human instead of a department.

Customers want to talk to people, not companies.

Just think about your own experience of calling a company hoping to speak with another human being, but you can’t get past the automated operator.

This is the email equivalent.

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Overall, there were definitely some positives that we can take away from the follow up we received, but unfortunately, it’s all for not as soon as the customer can sense the insincerity of the automated response. 

I’ll say it again, you don’t get many opportunities to engage in meaningful discussions with your customers, so when you’re given the chance, don’t ruin it by sending your robot in to do a human’s job.

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Chad Keck

As a product lead and executive for numerous successful ventures (Rackspace, HP Cloud, AppFog), Chad founded Promoter.io to help bring the actionable insights provided by Net Promoter to all businesses. He is a native Texan with a passion for helping other entrepreneurs.

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