The Art of a Confirmation Email
The average working person receives 126 emails a day (radicati.com). As contract centre managers we love a well-written email, but we’re also human beings who feel the burn when our personal inbox gets inundated.
Our favourite thing is sending our customers an email that they WANT to receive. This rare creature is called the confirmation email. It hold a special place in our customer’s journey: marking the junction between sales and customer service. Without it, people start to get twitchy. But how do we, as contact centres, ensure our email is read and not just received?
Take Up The Baton
Confirmation emails tend to mark the moment that a sales conversation graduates to a customer interaction. This pivot point is our first opportunity to be helpful as customer service providers, which means establishing a strong relationship with the people who have put their trust, and likely invested their money, in us. This responsibility is one we have to constantly keep in mind when writing confirmation emails. To achieve a smooth and impressive transition, we need to set a precedent of quality communication as well as draw the parameters of what can be expected from us, as this part of the customer journey begins. That might be empowering our customers to track their delivery online or providing a smooth omnichannel experience if there’s a post-sales issue. Either way, the confirmation email needs to make people feel safe in our hands.
Time is of the essence
Confirmation emails are a sprint finish sport. Their positive associations mean that the emails need to be delivered immediately upon a process completing, so that our customers feel vindicated and aren’t left scratching their chins.
Let’s be honest, we all get that little high when we’re emailed “Your driver Gary will deliver your flowers between 14.34 - 15.37”. Especially because if it’s a gift, we can hold our ungrateful mate accountable if they haven’t profoundly thanked us by 1600hrs, whilst smugly knowing the tulips have arrived.
Now, to getting our emails READ. That's the tough bit.
Just like books, people judge emails by their covers. If we put a vague, unappealing sentence as our subject line, we risk an immediate delete, which would not be a good handover from sales to customer service. The average open rate of emails across all industries in 2020 was just 21.3% (superoffice.com). Shattering stuff. But nothing we can’t solve with a clear and concise call to action.
“Complete your transaction here” is so deliciously direct that it begs to be dealt with.
Whereas “Hello! There’s still a few more little steps to complete your purchase with us” is long, quite annoying, and meanders the active verb of the edge of a cliff. 3 words tends to be the optimal length of a subject line, as it fits nicely on a smartphone screen, but each of those words need to be cherry-picked. Generally, adjectives can go in the bin.
Crucially for confirmation emails, subject lines need to say what is IN that TIN. For a camping trip, that might be “Akbar - Burrowhayes Booked!”. This has personability, includes specifics such as the customer and campsite names, and will help a customer search easily for the details at a later date.
Although we’re always tight on words, a sprinkling of emotion can work wonders. How many times have you read the email subject line “We miss you” from a company you bought one fork from in 2016, and been intensely flattered for a moment, before remembering it’s a marketing tactic? Tapping into our readers’ emotions will get our content read, but the key is not to be insincere in our methods, otherwise we’ll jeopardise the customer relationship we’ve just been entrusted with.
Pick our battles, avoid any wars
We like this adage when it comes to emails. If there are ten bits of information we need to tell or ask of our customers for, we don’t send them ten emails unless we want to tip everyone over the edge. Especially as we’ve only just taken the helm in speaking to them as the customer service experts, we want to play it cool. This is basically a first date. So we also need to resist sending one email with ten times the normal amount of information in. Overwhelmingly long text explanations have been known to lose people life-partners, so they will absolutely lose us customers.
Instead, we pick the most urgent matter, make it digestible, and send an email about it. For a confirmation email, that might just be letting people know their booking is complete, rather than diving straight into the process of how to check-in online. Especially if the holiday isn’t for another 18 months. Steady on Larry.
Unlike a good television series, confirmation emails want to have ABSOLUTELY no mysterious allure. If our customers need to mine for information like it’s an episode of Line of Duty, then Mother of God we’ve unanimously failed in providing good customer service. We need to give the game away straight away: names, dates, times, addresses, order numbers, THE LOT. This also feeds into how the information is arranged. If you like the telly analogy: think headline news, with BREAKING: subtitles across the screen rather than ten years’ worth of complex crime drama scripts.
Today 81% of emails are opened on a mobile device (superoffice.com) which means, eight times out of ten, we aren’t emailing big desktop monitors, but back pocket-sized screens. Heaven forbid, it might even be the squashed square of an Apple watch.The important information needs to appear ‘above the fold’ of the email, which means our customer doesn’t need to scroll to see it.
Another risk with a confirmation email is that our customers will take the dopamine hit of seeing their transaction has completed, without actually reading about it properly. Strategic use of language is vital. Strong formatting is king. Good spacing, bold and bullet points are indispensable to introducing ourselves as the customer service experts.
Emails are a great way to flag the opportunity to self-serve to a customer, smoothing the transition from sales to customer service by keeping them in the driving seat. An email which opens with a friendly, “Sorry, we’ve run out of tofu, please pick another meal for your recipe box!” followed by a BIG GREEN button saying “PICK YOUR MEAL” linking to a choice of slow-cooked aubergine goulash and cashew cheese pizzas, will help our customer forget the bean curd korma ever existed. Especially considering that 82% of working people check their personal emails outside of office hours (statista.com), 24/7 self-serve options embedded into our emails will also reduce secondary points of contact which lightens agent workload, freeing them up for more technical assignments.
BUT if self-service isn’t an option, we need to make it very clear how our customer can contact us to resolve things. Popping our phone number in size 8 Times New Roman italics underneath our email signature, with no whisper of our opening hours, would be exactly how NOT to do this.
When writing our emails, we need to keep our brand’s tone of voice in mind and balance the need for scarcity of language with its effectiveness, by giving real purpose and care to what we’re saying. As confirmation emails can be more tightly tied to emotional reactions, considering our customer has committed to something, we need to reflect this by connecting with them. Especially as this is the first time we’re connecting with them as the CS team rather than sales experts. For example, it’s better to write “Laura, your tenancy agreement has been finalised, welcome home!” than it is to coldly pen “Your tenancy agreement is complete.” The latter might save us words, but the former builds a relationship.
Confirmation emails are a joy to write compared to many other similar correspondences, but we acknowledge they’re still a tricky art. If you’d like some support in writing yours, get in touch, and we promise not to leave you hanging.