Written by Ariad Communications on March 17, 2014
in Email Marketing

At its core, email is customer experience. Customer experience happens every time your customer engages with your brand: in any channel, anywhere, anytime. And email is on the frontline of that experience. It is a direct touch point between you and your customer. Every email received from you contributes to your customer’s experience and perception of your brand.

But looking through my inbox recently I’m struck by how many brands still seem to think email has nothing to do with customer experience. So, what’s going wrong and how can we fix it?

1. Irrelevancy

We all hate it when brands get our details and situations wrong – when they try to sell us the product we already have, when they misspell our name, when they forget we’ve been a customer for a long time.

Email is a channel where too many brands quickly undermine their claims to “understand” their customers by sending irrelevant content and offers to their customers, creating that poor, impersonal customer experience we all dislike. And what it comes down to is a failure to respond to data.

So, for a better customer experience, stop being irrelevant. Get the data you need to segment your lists. Be as detailed as possible. Then make sure you respond to that data with the content and offers you email to your customers.

2. Failing to understand or respond to context

The key here is recognizing that customers also receive your emails in the context of their wider engagement with your brand – their use, purchase patterns, products, service – and that this affects the experience your customers expect.

An example. Recently I received an email from my bank inviting me to renew my mortgage. I followed the link to complete the renewal online, and was greeted by a form that took no account of the fact I am already a customer. Why, given I already have my mortgage with the bank, would they frustrate and irritate me by asking me to fill in my name, income, address etc again and essentially treat me like a new customer who they know nothing about? What my bank hasn’t done is map how my journey as a customer affects what I expect from their content and therefore what their content should be.

To ensure a better customer experience than this, the first thing you’ll need to do is map the customer journey. To this you’ll need to map where and when content and offers are most relevant and, crucially, irrelevant. Then map your segment profiles to this and you’ll be on the way to making sure each of your customers is getting the email that is most valuable for them.

3. Failing to meet expectations

We’ve all signed up for email programs that have either turned out to be little more than spam, or simply haven’t delivered the content we were expecting. The fundamental problem in both cases is the brands have failed to meet the expectations they set.

So, if you promise subscribers one email a month, no matter how tempting it might be to squeeze in one more offer, don’t… or you just become spam.

And under delivering is just as frustrating as over delivering. We’ve all signed up for the email newsletter that promises a monthly email and seen the brand sustain their own interest for two or three issues. But then the timing slips, there was a delay, it’s six weeks, then one gets missed altogether because someone’s on vacation. And we, as the subscriber are left feeling underwhelmed, and disappointed in the brand.

Fixing the customer experience breakdown isn’t complex but it does take discipline. When a customer signs up for your email program, be clear about what they will receive, how often and where the emails will come from. Then stick to your own rules.

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