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Ken Magill

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Stupid Email Watch: You Sold Me, Remember?


By Ken Magill

There’s an old saying among home beer brewers: It’s really easy to make good beer and it’s really easy to make bad beer.

The same can be said for email customer service.

Today we have three lessons illustrating the easy good/bad of email: two on what not to do and one refreshing example of what to do.

The first example of what not to do comes courtesy of one of the world’s largest banks: HSBC.

I wasn’t particularly happy with HSBC for years and contemplated closing my accounts many times.

Any time I needed help over the phone, I would get a scripted call-center rep in India who couldn’t help me. It’s not the India part that bothers me. It’s the part where they read answers off a script that don’t address my problem.

And every time I got off one of those “I’m-sorry-Mr.-Magill-but-there’s-nothing-I-can-do-for-you” calls, I would vow to switch banks.

But several regular financial transactions were routed in and out of the checking account, so—me being the lazy ass I am—I let it go.

Plus my check numbers were closing in on 2,500 and I wanted to see how high I could take them. Yeah, I know. Lame.

In any case, HSBC recently sold some of its branches—including mine—to First Niagara. “Well, that takes care of the switching-banks problem,” I thought.

But HSBC is apparently unaware it broke up with me. I recently received an email with the subject line: “Simplify Banking by activating your HSBC Internet Banking Account.”

Thing is, I activated my HSBC Internet banking account years before the sale to First Niagara and had done business with HSBC far more often online than off.

My guess is this was a simple case of someone failing to specify the proper parameters when they pulled the email file of people who weren’t banking online with HSBC.

No big deal, really. But the mistake underscored why I was glad I left, or was tossed aside to be more accurate. It also underscored how easy it is to do dumb things with email.

Our second lesson in what not to do in email customer service comes courtesy of, a send-till-forbid company that delivers razors on a monthly basis.

I joined specifically because of the marketing. It’s funny and innovative. Humor is risky in direct marketing but DollarShaveClub pulls it off.

But then there’s fulfillment and customer service. I received my first set of blades about a month after I joined and no handle.

I emailed the company about the missing handle last week using a Web form that promised an answer within 48 hours. Five days later, nothing. So I emailed them again. I then got a response and my handle came in the mail today.

It’s difficult to be in direct marketing for any length of time without running across the famous Tom Peters quote: “Under promise, over deliver.”

It’s a tenet most DMers live by. The folks at DollarShaveClub apparently need to learn it. If you promise to answer email within 48 hours, you should probably respond within 24. Either that, or don’t make the promise.

Again, no big deal, but failing to keep the 48-hours promise does needless damage to a very fun brand.

And lastly, we get a refreshing example of how email customer service should be done from toymaker Mattel.

According to Consumerist, when a man’s Hot-Wheels-collector daughter asked him why some cars have drivers and others don’t, he didn’t have the answer so he emailed Mattel the question.

“While I fully expected some type of response back, I was blown away by the quality of the response,” the man wrote to Consumerist.

Here’s Mattel’s response:

Hi Hot Wheels Enthusiast Giana!

I'm so glad you contacted us about your question of why some of the Hot Wheels cars have drivers and some do not. This is a very good question!

It actually depends on the designer that makes each one, as to whether they think a driver should be in a particular car or not.

It's your kind of enthusiasm that keeps us inspired to create toys that you love, parents value, and we know are made with the highest standards of design, quality and safety.

As you are probably just starting your collection, I am going to send you a $5.00 voucher for you to use on your next Mattel or Fisher-Price purchase! You should receive it in the mail within the next 14 business days!

We will continue to work hard to make sure that you enjoy our products for years to come!

Keep your eye on the road ahead, because new Hot Wheels® cars are always just around the corner!

Thanks again,

Robin S.
Mattel Consumer Relations Team

“Needless to say, she will only be getting Hot Wheels cars from now on,” the girl’s father wrote.

See how that works? One thoughtful email, one customer for life. Good job, Mattel.


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