Design Customer Support Emails for Behavior Change


37Signals

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

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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.

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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?

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VirginMobileUSA_kickbacks

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.

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