Design Customer Support Emails for Behavior Change


This past week I sent my phone carrier a very specific inquiry and request. I asked them to either point me to where I can block a spam phone number that had been calling me incessantly, or please block it for me.

It was my second attempt at deciphering the various dead-end menus under "my account" on the wireless Website.

I thought of the person on the receiving end receiving multiple badly worded inquiries a day, and so I tried to keep my request very, very short and to the point. This is the offending number, I cannot figure out how to block it, etc.

As soon as I hit send I received an acknowledgment response form. The response came a little over an hour later, also a canned email.

Covering everything and the kitchen sink, the email basically said I was out of luck, unless I wanted to pay to block the numbers.

That aside, the email itself was basically a large block of CYA copy (that stands for cover your a..) masquerading as helpful guide. It wasn't helpful. I could find that information on your site. Which is why I contacted you.

This is my advice for the survey linked to at the bottom of that standard form: Kill that email right now. Free of charge. A gift to you.

Design for behavior change


Instead, here's what you do.

Hold the myriad marketing newsletter you send out that are not anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. Basically all of them.

Then, think of your customer support communications as forms of marketing. Why spend good money advertising your promise in one place to then not closing the gap in your emails when it counts the most? A customer contacts you, make it count.

Make your email forms easy to scan. In fact, split the topics by each type of inquiry: unwanted spam text, unwanted phone spam, etc.

Then add the survey right in the design by providing options to trade. What deals are customers willing to make? You have all the data to make those as personal as they get. Tie the emails to your customer account.

Get creative from incentives to save, to rewarding customers who have been with you for ten years or more, referrals, etc. Aren't relationships one of the things you trade? Rethink possible here.

If that's a hassle, then redesign your Website so that instead of chasing my tail through a series of dead ends I can do more self service there.

Design for change works on both sides of the trade: Your business, and your customers.


I cannot believe there are apps that help people block unwanted numbers from calling their mobile devices, and your own carrier app is just sitting on the sidelines at the opportunity to add value.

Or do you see your business just as transmitters, receivers, and communications channels that send messages to one another? Is it the business of routers or that of connecting people to each other? Or was that just ad copy?



There are options to trade on personalization with a design mindset.

Personalization stems from the desire to enroll into a specific worldview and set of beliefs. And you don't trade those with one off transactions. You need to have a global approach and system in place to appeal to customer buy strategies.

Today, it's increasingly possible for people to exercise their freedom and ability to mix and match. For example, get a Skype number, use Google Voice, and get pay-as-you go wireless with no contracts.

When you think platform vs. trasmission gear, all kinds of other opportunities to make deals open up. With the explositon of daily deals, the term has taken on the connotation that says discount. I view deals as part of trade.

And yes, why not pass some opportunities to customers through affiliate programs, specials, etc.?

In this new environment, your brand becomes an asset that gets value in flows, through trading better promises, not just expensive media placements.

Redesigning the way we pay for wireless would have been the next step for Steve Jobs. Wouldn't you just love to buy a pay-as-you-go plan from Apple? I would. You'd know the experience would be great. And how we pay is as much a part of the experience as what we're buying.


Know of other companies that is testing some of these ideas (besides Virgin Mobile USA)? Maybe your business?

0 responses to “Design Customer Support Emails for Behavior Change”

  1. I couldn’t help but think of T-mobile as I read this. I’ve been with them since 1998 (when they were still VoiceStream). Beyond never having to worry about minutes of bandwidth usage, the biggest reason why I’ve stayed with them has been their customer service.
    Consistently exceptional, 90% of the time or more, the first person I speak to is able to resolve any and all issues; from unexpected roaming/data charges in Europe to happily accepting the new phone I returned via mail even though I bought it from a B&M location. They are really THAT GOOD.
    Which is why I’ll remain a customer for the foreseeable future. I’ve noticed their edge is not as sharp as it once was, but I chalk that up to their being exposed to so much AT&T mediocrity this year. I almost felt bad telling “Ashley” I did not need the visual voicemail service for $3/month because I already have Google Voice for free.
    Tmo has consistently been delivering on their promises for the last decade, while the likes of AT&T have been hiding behind their pretty device. 😉

  2. the big elephant in the room, of course, is that marketing is one group and customer service is another and they each trade based on different incentives with no skin in the game.
    The nickel and dime stuff drives me nuts. That is not good trade. Making better promises is good trade – find out what matters to me and let’s trade.

  3. AT&T has come a long way with their customer service Valeria. We really don’t have a choice where we live for a cell phone carrier, and their service used to be THE WORST. But over the last year they have completely turned it around.
    I agree that the best time to market to your customers is when they NEED YOU. Otherwise, marketing is wasted.
    I also use iContact email marketing, and while they don’t have all the features of bigger competitors, their customer service is so spectacular I’m happy to stay. They ALWAYS follow up with a survey that makes it clear they expect their employees to take ownership of the problem. The one time I wasn’t happy with my service, I filled out the survey and got a phone call from them 20 minutes later. Wow.

  4. Agreed. Get far enough down the sunk cost rabbit hole and the returns diminish to the point of needing to nickel and dime the customer to maintain the status quo.
    Lipstick on a pig.

  5. I agree, they have. Which is why I am making all these suggestions.
    MailChimp is really prompt on answering inquiries and they provide a ton of tutorials on how to use their product.
    Thank you for stopping by and for suggesting an email provider. Good intel on business practices always comes in handy.

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