How Email Can Make You A Customer Service Star

I know you. You tell me what you want. I make it. I remember next time.
-D. Peppers and M. Rogers, Enterprise One to One

Customer satisfaction is vital for a company’s success. You take care of every customer, not only because you appreciate their business, but also because you know the profound effect of word-of-mouth.

Promptly responding to feedback can make you in an otherwise break-you situation. Read on to discover one company whose lack of response cost them millions, and three others whose effort earned them rave reviews.

As Joseph Jaffe points out, “Retention is the new acquisition.” Work on your own retention with these ideas on finding out what subscribers want – and delivering it.

A Public Relations Nightmare

Canadian country singer Dave Carroll‘s guitar was broken in spring of 2008 by United Airlines’ boisterous baggage handling.

The airline ignored Carroll’s complaints for months. Fed up, he launched a YouTube video informing the public that United breaks guitars (and a follow-up about the messy aftermath.)

The video was viewed over 7.5 million times. United eventually offered Carroll a settlement, which he redirected to charity.

United’s share value fell by 10% after the video’s release. The $180 million loss would have bought Carroll over 51,000 new guitars – and saved the airline’s reputation.

Gold-Star Acts of Service

On the other hand, when companies jump to respond to customer feedback, it pays off. Not only did these three avoid the snafu that United went through, they were also publicly praised.

Cathay Pacific flight attendants circumvented protocol to get a stranded passenger halfway around the world to his home, earning a glowing recommendation.

Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas found a disgruntled Facebook post about poor customer service. They apologized within hours with a basket of wine and chocolate.

Comcast’s Frank Eliason addresses customer concerns – and improves the company’s reputation – on Twitter. No need to wait for the cable guy – he’s @ComcastCares!

You Can Do It, Too

As an email marketer, you are already a step ahead of the game. Through your email list, you are already in contact with lots of your customers. Here are some ways you can tell your readers that you want their feedback, and get it from them.

  • Make sure that the “reply” address and postal address listed in your emails are legitimate. If you don’t check them frequently, start doing so. Respond to every complaint and every compliment – show each customer you appreciate them.
  • Periodically send out customer satisfaction surveys. Design them so your readers can critique as much as possible. Cover every topic you can think of, then leave room for ones you miss. Encourage comments and stories, and again, respond wherever you can.
  • Include your company’s phone number in your emails with a clear invitation to call you with any questions or concerns.
  • Set up an autoresponder that invites feedback. For example, AWeber’s new blog subscribers get an email that shows all the ways they can contact us and asks for their feedback and preferences.

Once you have your customers’ feedback, go use it!

  • Apply your findings to the content of your newsletter. If your readers prefer certain topics, concentrate on them.
  • If you get feedback regarding a lack of interest in certain types of content, try segmenting your list. Group subscribers with similar preferences and send the content each segment most wants.
  • If you use a rating scale, segment the subscribers who rate an email low. Ask them what they didn’t like or what content they’d rather see. Personally address any serious problems.
  • Use the feedback as content in your emails. Positive comments can be included as testimonials. If you make a change based on a reader’s suggestion, write about it. You value your subscribers and your door is always open – let them know.

Want to Learn More?

For more information on email marketing for wineries, view our complete Email Marketing for Wineries Guide.

What Makes You Shine?

It’s been said that customer service is the new marketing.

How do you find out what your customers want? How personal do you get with your responses?

How does their feedback make a difference in what you do?


  1. Wes

    3/18/2010 1:39 pm

    As a man thats in the autumn years of his life, who has worked in many vocations of business it is true, honesty and claity does triumph show-boating or use car salemen mentality.

  2. Maria

    3/18/2010 8:18 pm

    United actually did an ad with Carroll, if I remember well. Great idea (his), and he showed the power that social media give to until now mostly powerless consumers.

  3. azmil syahmi

    3/19/2010 6:27 am

    Its true responding fast to email comments will save your company. I have noticed when our General Manager response to comments from guest it build a lasting impression. We also build repeat business. By responding the guest knows that we are serious on his comments and we value his patronage. But now we have to be more vigilant as there are more social network where people can put anything.

  4. Karin H

    3/19/2010 6:48 am

    You can use AWeber “extended” webforms to open up an instant dialogue with your prospects – since we’ve started doing this it has been the best performing list ever (and continues to do so – in a different form though).

    With an extended webform you add a “text area” box to the form and invite your website visitors to ask you a question – now how simple and conversational is that! Make sure you ticked the box for email alerts to yourself so once your subscriber has confirmed he/she wants your answer you get notified, you see the question immediately and with a simple click on the reply button in your email program you are on your way to engage positively with your new prospect.

    It’s as simple as that 😉

    (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  5. Tessa Carroll

    3/19/2010 10:12 am

    It is an absolute fact that honesty is the best policy, especially in business. Transparency and engagement through social media channels, internet marketing, and email are some of the most marketable actions a company can take.

  6. Michelle

    3/19/2010 11:27 am

    While it is true that responding fast to email comments will save your company, too fast can set up a certain expectation like you are sitting right in front of the computer screen reading email all day. even if you are 🙂

  7. Amanda Gagnon

    3/19/2010 3:58 pm

    Karin ~ That’s a terrific strategy!

    Michelle ~ I think that maybe your customers would hope you are. 🙂

  8. Christina Sponias

    3/20/2010 7:11 pm

    I agree with Amanda. I like very much to receive messages from my subscribers as an answer to my messages, or with their questions, and I see that they appreciate the fact that I send them my answer without delay.

    You should not pretend that you are too busy and you cannot answer immediately the messages you receive, because your subscribers are your potential customers. They want to be very well treated, and see their problems being immediately solved.

    Besides that, of course you should care more for your subscribers than for pursuing customers online, and stop doing something else when they send you a message, because they have already showed interest on what you are selling.

    If you had an offline store, of course you would interrupt your activities each time a customer would come in, and start making you questions.

  9. Ken

    3/24/2010 4:04 pm

    Umm.. Justin,

    I just don’t think they got 7.5 million viewers from YouTube.

    Probably 7,500 viewers who played it 1,000 times. Like me.

    Did United get the message?

  10. Wes Staley

    4/3/2010 10:45 am

    I certainly agree with statements viewed here. A smile on your face and a song in your heart is an adage that applies to all facets of life for me.
    Being new to the Internet I’ve been involved in marketing services and products; like all new enterprises the learning curve is a continuous process. Like they say a wise man can learn from a fool, but no fool can learn from a wise man. That’s what’s great about the Internet, you can find any type of an attitude predicated on what you’re looking for. I see a lot of innovative people with a positive view of life under hard times.

  11. Brian Bijdeveldt

    4/12/2010 10:41 pm

    Right on Amanda,

    Customer retention and loyalty are critical to any business. We are sometimes so focused on obtaining new customers that we ignore our existing client base. We know it is easier to sell to customers who have already responded to our marketing message and bought our good/services.

    Allocating a large slice of our time to deepening the relationship with customers (including correcting service injustices quickly) should be on every businesses agenda.

    It has been documented that around 68% of customers who stray to the competition do so due to perceived indifference of the business to a complaint or requested service modification. So this blog post is well worth reading and acting on.

  12. Customer Service Basics – Email them back…quick! «

    5/12/2010 12:37 am

    […] Amanda Gagnon

  13. Yolanda

    9/15/2010 1:52 am

    This makes perfect sense. I thought it would be interesting to put together a list of a few things I’ve found that can greatly improve the level of service your customers receive via email. It’s not a perfect list and even I forget to do all these things all of the time, but I believe if you stick with them that your customers will feel better about your service level and you’ll see tangible increases in satisfaction and sales.

  14. Jennifer

    9/22/2010 4:13 am

    I agree that Customer service is the new marketing! Why? Because when customers get satisfaction, they bring you more business not only by extending their subscription, but also by referring you to other prospective clients!

  15. Matie

    1/8/2011 8:02 pm

    Have you heard of customer delight, I think its more powerful than customer service.

    Customer expectations are typically not very high. Your job is to surprise them. Customer Delight is doing what they haven’t even imagined. What will cause them to say WOW!?

    You know what you can do – they don’t. When they are delighted they will refer more customers to you, which means more business.