Confirmation e-mails may be the workhorses of the e-commerce world, but when done right they can do more than let customers know the order's been shipped or the question's been received. Confirmation e-mails offer an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your customer, increase brand loyalty and sales, and stave off calls or e-mails to customer service.
What Not to Do
Poor confirmation e-mails are a wasted opportunity and can damage the customer-company relationship. Here's a disappointing confirmation e-mail I recently received from Amazon Advantage, the program that authors enroll in to sell their books on Amazon.com. Here's why this confirmation e-mail fails to measure up:
- Impersonal greeting. There's nothing wrong with the salutation greetings, but if Amit had greeted me by name, it would have increased my confidence that he had read my question and hadn't sent me a generic canned response.
- Imprecise language. Twice, Amit refers to the concerned department. Specifically, I had asked about selling an Edoc (PDF) on Amazon.com. He should have referred to my specific question and, if necessary, named the specific department he alerted. On a related topic, Amit's diction reveals a British English background. American customers simply don't refer to concerned departments. Amit should strive to use precise wording in an effort to write global English, or English that doesn't reveal how remote the customer service group is from the customer.
- Inexact time frame for follow-up. Amit assures me that someone else (who?) will get back to me as soon as possible (when?). Thus, this e-mail confirms very little. I'm likely to e-mail again because I don't know how long I should wait for a response.
- Typo. "Do you have all of your title enrolled in the Advantage program?" This mechanical error makes me wonder whether my question will receive careful attention.
Confirmation E-Mail from Amazon Advantage
From: Amazon.com Advantage Member Services
Subject: RE: [Case 1234567] Item Management - Other
I am sorry to hear that you have not yet received any reply from the concerned department. I have alerted the concerned department to look into this issue and get back to you as soon as possible.
Thank you for your patience and participation in Amazon.com Advantage.
Amit, Member Services
Do you have all of your title enrolled in the Advantage program? Enroll them all today! http://www.amazon.com/advantage
How to Write a Confirmation E-Mail
- Answer all the customer's questions. A confirmation e-mail should be a question-answering machine! Let the customer know what has happened, what will happen, who is responsible, what to expect, when to expect it, and what to do if she needs more help.
- Write in a friendly tone. Convey the feeling that doing business with your company will be pleasant, even if your e-mail is handling a menial task. Set the tone of your e-mail a little bit warmer than absolutely necessary. So, instead of writing "Order #1234 has been shipped and will arrive by February 15" try "We have shipped your order #1234, and you should receive it by February 15."
- Make it personal. Use the customer's name. Restate or refer to the customer's query, if possible. Cite the customer's account or order number. And sign the e-mail with an actual name whenever possible.
- Make it informative. Include complete contact information for your business. Deep link to FAQs or other content that customers might need at the point of confirmation.
- Provide additional info, but keep it relevant. A confirmation e-mail is not the place for unfettered up-selling and cross-selling, but if you keep it brief and relevant, you might mention additional information. For example, if you're offering a new downloadable users' guide on a product the customer has ordered, you might mention it in the confirmation e-mail.
Interested in customer service e-mail? Read past posts "E-Mail Customers Love: Your Order Is On Its Way" and "E-Mail from Orbitz: Four Kinds of Bad." Also check out our articles "Teaching Offshore Agents To Write 'American' E-Mail" and "Answering E-Mail From Angry Customers: How To Turn Furious People Into Fans."
-- Leslie O'Flahavan