Using great content in service emails

The lowly service email. There to serve a purpose and provide basic information to customers. However the potential of these communications is often overlooked. With a number of different emails going out at various stages during the customer purchase cycle there is a real opportunity to go above and beyond the provision of basic account and order information and deliver emails that add value and engage customers.

First off, let's consider some of the most common problems with service emails:

They're written by tech bods

More often that not, service emails are the first automated emails that get put in place when a new website goes live and are therefore a neccessity and end up being treated separately from marketing email communications. It often gets left up to developers to put them in place and as a result there is no input from marketing or brand teams. The result can be functional plain text emails, such as this example (I've blanked out the name as this isn't about naming and shaming).

The email serves a purpose, but it doesn't add any value and doesn't represent the brand particularly well. So knowing how and where to place value-add content becomes important.

They don't get tracked

Usually service emails are sent directly from servers as they are triggered in response to a customer action. This means they don't get tracked via an email service provider (ESP) and it is therefore impossible to tell if anyone is actually opening these emails let alone engaging with them.

During one project I worked on a couple of years ago, we discovered a service email that it turned out was triggered to customers millions of times a month and made up 80% of the send volume from a list of around 30 triggers. It didn't even have a logo on it so when viewed the customer had no idea who it was from.

By looping your service emails via your ESP you can monitor the performance of these emails and identify opportunities to include more content that will enrich the customer's experience with your brand.

They're written in plain text

Plain text only emails had their place (a long time ago), but fortunately some brands are realising that service emails don't need to be dull. Yes, they need to reach inboxes and deliverability of these emails is crucial - ref. above section 'they don't get tracked' - but getting your brand message across is also important, especially for building on trust. Service emails often contain information about orders which involves money, so trust is hugely important. Clearly define your emails and set them apart from the spam and bacon in everyone's inboxes.

So, what do you do to get more content in your service emails? 

Utilise cross-sell opportunities

Build content around your core messaging to include cross-sell pods on the right hand side (two-column email layout) or underneath your main content block (hierarchical layout) to promote other relevant products or services. It's important not to make these too hard-sell!

Drive users to social media

Early email communications with customers/potential customers pose a great opportunity to harness initial engagement and direct them towards your social media channels: Twitter profile, Facebook page, YouTube channel, Pinterest profile, etc. and if you're a B2B business, your LinkedIn page. You could also consider pulling in social media feeds into your welcome emails. As they're triggered in real-time you can be confident the content is up-to-date.

Set up a specific template

Rather than relying on an unstructured plain text email, a template will enable you to incorporate elements of your site design and other marketing emails to ensure the recipient has a consistent experience with your brand across mulitple touchpoints. It also makes it easier to deliver the relevancy part of your additional content by dynamically populating certain areas on the template.

Use your tone of voice

Given that service emails are hugely important communications with your customers, and often the most opened and read emails you'll send, why would you not want to ensure they are on-brand and use the right tone of voice?

Canvass opinion

Asking customers for feedback via a questionnaire or prompting them to review your product or service is something to consider later in the customer journey and provides a valuable opportunity to enhance engagement with the customer and generate user generated content (in the form of a unique review).

With service emails making up a large proportion of send volume and being some of the most timely and relevant emails customers receive, there is real opportunity to incorporate great content and make them work harder for your customers and your business. Plus if you send emails via your ESP you can soon evaluate the results of your changes.