Category: Insights

What Do You Mean You Didn’t Get Our Emails?

By Denis Kurganskiy,

Whether your organization has 100 email subscribers or over 1,000,000, the end goal is the same — everyone wants to be sure important messages and announcements sent out via email reach the intended recipients.

Stop BCCing

For very small businesses, the BCC seems like your best friend. You can send out your email news to your list without going through the pains of ‘creating a campaign’ inside an email marketing platform. Even, better, it’s free, yes? Many organizations (of all sizes mind you — just found out this practice was being used by a company with 500+ employees) still rely on this approach and are seeing their email problems escalate. If BCC is still your cup of tea, consider these caveats — it’s very clear there are better and very inexpensive (and sometimes free) alternatives to get your message out in a professional manner. BCCing almost always leads to: (1) violation of laws and regulations; (2) inconsistent visual appearance of your message to your users depending on their email program (which leads to users and the server flagging as spam, even by valid recipients); (3) lack of insight and analytics to help you improve quality of future mailings; (4) the accidental ‘Reply All’ exposing everyone’s email to everyone.

News vs. Promotions. Choose Your Sending System Wisely.

Many users report certain messages getting through to the inbox without issue while others get held up in junk mail purgatory. Consider your messaging strategy and the platforms you are using to send out messages. For example, some email sending systems were originally designed and tailored to smaller organizations wanting to send out newsletters (rather than solicitations and sales promotions). Email servers are getting better at understanding messages sent and can often tell the difference between a ‘newsletter’ and a ‘solicitation.’ Evaluate the programs being used to send messages. If your efforts began as a small newsletter to your group but now have evolved to be more promotional in nature, your current email service sending service may not be the best option for your needs.

Formatting & User Experience Counts

I receive an email every day from a favorite restaurant with the list of specials. This email is nothing more than a single image of the day’s menu. When designing an email, user experience plays a big role in determining the emails deliverability. To improve the quality of the email and its chances of getting past the spam gate (and getting higher readership of the message, too), consider personalization, user friendly formatting tactics and craft an email that you would want to read and not just press X. Use a combination of graphics and text — ensuring the text next to the corresponding image contributes to the user’s need and interest to download the graphic. Include the person’s name in the welcome part of the email or subject. Explore segmenting your audience based on the type of recipient. Aiming to have your message create more of a 1-on-1 conversation with your recipient versus a mass mailing shows the email servers and junk mail filters this is a unique, important message worthy of the recipient’s eyes.

Ask to Whitelist

Once someone subscribes to the list, provide a thank you screen with the request that the user adds his email address to their own whitelists/approved sender lists. When a recipient adds your sending email address to his approved list, it ensures your message bypasses the spam filter and junk mail folder rules and ends straight in the inbox. To be super-user friendly, create visual guides with screenshots for various email platforms showing a user step-by-step to accomplish this. Besides, the recipient wants to receive your messages. Asking the recipient to go the extra mile is especially well-received when the initial subscription is linked to a specific benefit to the recipient.

Try Other Messaging Platforms

Customers preferences to receive information is changing — and so are the options to reach them. Email is not dead, and neither are a growing number of messaging environments to correspond with recipients. Consider Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or SMS/Text to communicate announcements, promotions and events. Some customers prefer these channels compared to email and the complexity required to ensure deliverability is far less on direct messaging than via email.

Neglected Elements of the Customer Journey

By Denis Kurganskiy,

“People have been grappling with a definition of customer experience for several years. Sometimes it’s defined as digital experiences and interactions, such as on a website or a smartphone. In other cases, customer experience is focused on retail or customer service, or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center.” ~Adam Richardson, Understanding Customer Experience”, Harvard Business Review, October 28, 2010.

Organizations of all types – from e-commerce retail and medical practices to non-profits and restaurants – are spending more and more time thinking about how to better communicate, engage with and convert prospects into long time, satisfied customers.  Many enterprises have employed concepts, such as customer journey mapping, to identify the steps a prospect goes through to become an active customer, patient or client.

The processes and resulting maps can be complex and showcase a ‘cradle to grave’ (thanks again to Adam Richardson for this phrase, “Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience”, Harvard Business Review, November 10, 2010) environment – taking into account every possible touchpoint a customer may endure.  These include digital touchpoints, such as email or push notifications as well as traditional touchpoints, such as phone calls, direct mails and conversations with in-store staff.

The advancement of technology, marketing automation and subscription model SaaS tools have encouraged business owners and managers to focus primarily on digital touchpoint and technology-driven processes.  After all, these are more efficient, easier to deploy and represent the direction things are going.  With all the shock-and-awe and glamor of intelligent digital solutions to improve the customer journey, it can be very tempting to leave a few things out.


One-On-One Interactions

When a technical support agent for an Internet service provider or email service provider receives a troubleshooting call from a client, often the first question is a variation of “is your Internet connection plugged in?”  To the customer calling in, this can often be an infuriating question – “of course it is plugged in!!!” is a common reply.  I would be surprised to find statistics addressing this problem and I’d venture to say that customers have called in screaming about email connectivity to find out their WiFi was off (source – me and experiences with clients – you’ll have to take my word for it).

Recently for a client, inbound appointments were on the decline, yes inbound calls were increasing, and email follow-ups were receiving high reply rates.  What was the problem?  It did not take long to discover that the phone tree was not configured properly.  This resulted in dead-ends & busy signals for a material amount of inbound calls. The penalty?  Missed opportunities, revenue and a bad experience for a customer that is now less-inclined to choose the business.

Avoid the temptation to make the digital metrics dashboard your only ally and resource in evaluating the customer journey.  Periodically, take the time to be the customer.  Send in an email inquiry and understand the next step in the process.  Call in to try to schedule an appointment and listen to the voice prompts and confirm you can get to where you were aiming to get.  Visit a store and make a purchase.  Take note of things such as hold-time for a phone call, the friendliness of an in-store associate or the simple viability of a process (e.g., dead or broken elements of a phone tree or email address).


End-Customer Preferences

A brilliant and elegant email marketing system has been deployed.  The content, imagery, timing and touchpoint rules are flawless and would win accolades from marketing automation awards panels (yes, these exist – DMN Awards).  However, sometimes success in the automation orchestration, even with good response rates, do not mean that the company is truly engaging with customers.  Some customers that would prefer a phone survey or paper survey reply to the emails resigning themselves to the “well, that’s just how it is these days.”  Inquire directly with customers and ask about their preferences – it makes a difference.

Our firm was recently involved in a project to build a patient-facing online appointment system for a medical practice.  As part of the inquiry, patients were asked if they would prefer phone, email or text message for their follow-up messages.  Over one-third preferred a phone call back to confirm their appointment and verify their information.  It’s natural to think that since someone initially inquired online, his preference would be to receive correspondence electronically.  Not the case.  Take the initiative to learn about how specific groups of customers prefer to receive correspondence from your organization.  This will improve response rates and customer satisfaction, particularly by building a deeper trust with the customer.


Traditional Outreach

Direct mail, in-person follow-up meetings and other forms of traditional, non-digital touchpoints are not dead.  A hand-written thank you note goes along way in deepening a bond with a customer.  The same goes for recognizing a customer while out at a restaurant and offering to buy a round of drinks.  These micro-moments are difficult to quantify; however, they play exceptionally important roles in the lifetime value of a customer.

If your firm is using a CRM system, log these informal interactions.  Over time, it will be possible to spot a trend that can open new ways to improve the flow of business to the organization.  For our business, I have been able to spot an uptick in business activity relevant to my time spent in the gym.  Conversations with prospects that would not happen anywhere else are leading to more appointments and proposals.


Measurement & Return on Investment

Many organizations can comment at an expert level about their customer journey and associated touch points.  Everything is working like a well-oiled machine; however these same business owners and managers have difficulty expressing the efficacy of these efforts.

“So, is it driving you new business?”

“Well, geez, I am not really sure.”

The intelligence and cool-factor of automation and an expert customer journey process can make it easy to overlook some real metrics.  Certainly, somethings are difficult to track as one-to-one relationships.  Does a more thought out email marketing flow directly result in increased in-store visits?  It’s usually not easy to say with complete confidence.  However, each campaign should have some metrics associated with to verify if the changes and new implementations are having positive impacts.  Is there an uptick in calls?  Leads?  Positive reviews?  Business owners and managers can evaluate multiple KPIs and determine over time which ones are the most meaningful.  Lastly, when there are costs involved, whether it be professional consulting fees or SaaS technology expenditures, understand how those costs are being allocated and if they are being utilized.

One client we worked with had an exceptional process for following-up with customers and earning repeat business.  Unfortunately, it was discovered that the company was paying for 3 SaaS subscriptions when only 1 was being used to accomplish its goals.  The performance was so blinding, the company failed to assess the ROI across the entire enterprise.  Paying closer attention along the way would have saved the company some hard earned dollars.