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How to send automated customer success emails that don’t suck

Customer Management
#automation

As a Customer Success Manager, email is likely your most-used communication channel for engaging your customers. But are those emails getting opened? Read? Acted on?

If not, then all the work you’ve done to find customer churn and expansion potential is for naught.

You can improve the chances of getting through to your customers via email, though. Here are three things people hate about emails and three ways you can send emails they love.

What customers hate about emails

Email itself isn’t hated. In fact, most people say that email is the best way for a company to communicate with them. But there are some things about emails people do hate.

Too many of them

Keeping in touch with your customers is a significant part of a CSM’s job. But don’t crowd people's inboxes. Adobe surveyed a group of professionals and asked them what they hated most about emails from companies. The worst offender? Getting too many emails from any one company.

Impersonal communication

Sure, automated emails save a lot of time. But if they look automated, they’ll sit unopened. Or, worse, they’ll get pushed to the spam folder. The email marketing experts at Yes Marketing analyzed 7 billion emails to find out how to improve open rates. They learned that if you personalize the subject line, people are twice as likely to open your email.

Irrelevant topics

When you send an email that isn’t relevant to your customer—like reminding them of a sale after they’ve already purchased—you risk more than just a single missed opportunity to engage. Marketing Sherpa found that one out of five people will go so far as to ask a company to stop emailing them altogether if they believe the messages aren’t relevant.

If customers hate getting too many impersonal and irrelevant emails, how can you send emails that your customers actually respond to?

Three ways you can improve your customer success emails

If you are using a Customer Success Platform (CSP) or customer relationship management (CRM) software, you’ve gathered a lot of data about your customers. Use this data to create and send emails that are more personal and relevant.

Are you sending relevant emails?

See how Vitally enables your CSMs to send customer emails that are personalized and meaningful

Personalize your emails

The average person receives 96 emails every day. That’s a lot of competition for inbox attention. Give your emails a fighting chance by adding a few personal details so the emails stand out in the crowd.

For starters, personalize the “from” line by using a CSM’s name and not the name of a generic group like Customer Success. Why does this matter? Because seeing emails from the same CSM will help build a familiarity that leads to higher open rates.

If you’re worried about overwhelming a single CSM’s inbox, you can mitigate that with an email management tool. That way, anyone on your team can jump in and engage with an email no matter who it’s sent to.

Want to empower your Customer Success team? See what tools to include in your tech stack >>

Next up is to add the customer’s name in the email. You should do this in both the subject line and the body copy. There’s some science behind why this works: our brains have a unique reaction to seeing our own name, so emails that address us personally stand out.

You can automate these email personalization steps using data from your CRM or CSP.

Use data from Vitally to automatically personalize your emails

Customized emails will get opened and read more often, but use caution—bad customer data will turn your best churn-reduction technique into a comedy of errors.

Don't do this to your customers

These simple personal touches will increase the chances of your emails being opened and read. Now, let’s work on making your emails more relevant.

Send emails at key customer milestones

Customer milestones are the steps your customers take to achieve a desired outcome. Within your product, enabling an integration or using a new feature is a milestone if it helps your customer accomplish one of their goals.

Remember:

Milestones are customer-centric. That means they're not always good news for you. For example, if a customer stops using your product, they believe that doing so will help them achieve something.

When milestones occur, your product is at the top of your customer’s mind. If a customer has just enabled a new feature, they’re thinking about how to use it or what it will do for them. If a customer has suddenly stopped using your product, they may be thinking about how it was getting in the way of their productivity. An email sent at these points of inflection will feel very relevant.

Hopefully, you’re already sending welcome emails and renewal notices. These are good examples of using automated emails at customer milestones. But there are so many other chances to engage a customer at key points in the customer journey.

For example:

Let’s say you work at Close, a CRM platform. Your Basic plan doesn't offer email sequences, but your Professional plan does. You see that a Close user has been sending several similar emails to each of their prospects—something your sequences feature would make easier. You could create an automated upsell email that gets sent when a customer sends five emails to the same address in a set period.

It might look something like this:

Create automated emails based on customer milestones

Jane has just spent part of her day manually creating those emails, so the time it took to do it is at the top of her mind. An email with this subject sent at the right time will feel relevant—and will get opened.

Segment your customers

Segments are groups of customers who have some attribute in common—like all customers in the health care field or every customer that bought your Enterprise plan.

You may already be segmenting your customers to create better customer health scores or improve churn analysis. You can also use those customer segments to tailor your emails so they are more relevant to each group.

Let’s say you’ve automated a notice to be sent two weeks before a customer is due for renewal. Since you have thousands of customers with varying renewal dates, that automation could save your CSMs a lot of time.

But what if a customer who is approaching the time for renewal hasn’t used your product in the past three weeks? Instead of renewing, that at-risk customer might be pushed over the edge and churn.

The solution? Segment your customers by health score. Then, create a rule in your email automation software that unhealthy customers don’t get auto-renewal notices without CSM intervention.

Segment your customers by health score and take different actions for healthy and unhealthy customers

As you can see, segmenting customers not only helps make emails more relevant. It can also help you avoid some awkward customer communications.

Great emails mean less churn

Reducing churn is like running a marathon. For the first 25 miles, you’re analyzing customer behavior, setting notifications to highlight at-risk accounts, and creating workflows that keep everything on track. Engaging those troubled accounts via email is often your last-mile sprint. If those emails are good—if customers are opening and responding to them—you’ll cross the finish line and collect a well-earned medal.

Kevin Fu
Kevin FuHead of Revenue @ Vitally

Kevin is the Head of Revenue @ Vitally. Previously @ Mapbox, @ Troops, @ Copper, and a founding member of the Revenue Collective Associates program. Outside of work, you can find him stuck at home like everyone else - it's quarantine, after all!