Canned responses – love them or hate them, it’s a simple fact that businesses rely on automated email responses to provide excellent customer service on a large scale.
That said, it’s crucial that businesses get their automated responses right. Getting them wrong could risk damaging the customer experience and could even result in losing valuable customers.
Here’s the ultimate guide to great automated responses, along with six real-life examples so you can see them in action.
Elements of a great automated response
The best way to craft the perfect automated response is to begin by thinking about what kind of message you’d like to receive from a business you’ve contacted or had a transaction with. In an ideal world you’d personally reply to each and every customer, but that’s impossible when you’re running a business.
The next best thing is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and craft the most friendly and helpful auto-response possible.
The timing of your automated email response is important, but will depend on the type of email you’re sending. A welcome or confirmation email should be immediate, while a review request should be sent soon – but not immediately – after purchase.
The trick is to get the timing right so that you provide the appropriate information to your customers when they’re most expecting it.
A strong and relevant subject line
Your subject line should do two things. Firstly, it needs to compel the recipient to open the email. Secondly, it should tell them what it’s about. So, if the recipient has just made a purchase, the subject line should say something like “Order confirmation,” or if they’ve made an inquiry, it should read something like “Here’s the information you requested.”
The content of your auto response is key. Spelling or grammar errors will raise doubts about your business and professionalism, and a generic response will miss an opportunity to connect with your customers.
Use your automated response to be as friendly and helpful as you can. Thank your customer for their purchase, for getting in touch, or whatever action they took to require an auto response. Where possible, personalize your emails using first name salutations.
Follow this up with an expectation of what happens next. Perhaps you need to tell them that you’ll get back to them within 24 hours, or that their goods will arrive in 3-5 working days.
A clear call-to-action
The mistake many businesses make is failing to use their auto responses to provide a useful next step for their customers.
This could be as simple as providing a phone number at which to reach you. If they’ve made a purchase, then perhaps it’s a good opportunity to ask for feedback with a link to your third-party review site. If they’ve made an inquiry, then direct them to browse your online store while they wait for your response.
6 examples of automated email responses
1. Welcome email
When to send: Immediately after sign-up.
Welcome emails give you the chance to do two things. First, they confirm to your customer that they’ve signed up for something successfully, whether that’s your monthly newsletter or regular updates on offers or recommended products. Second, it gives you a chance to direct your new subscribers to your products, your social media profiles, or whatever it is you want to show them.
This welcome email from Lego starts by telling the subscriber what they should expect to receive. Next, it directs them right to Lego’s product pages with a clear “Shop now” call-to-action:
2. Purchase confirmation
When to send: Immediately after purchase.
It’s important to let your customers know that they have successfully completed a purchase. We’ve all experienced that infuriating scenario when you’re pretty sure you completed the checkout process, yet received no confirmation message to back it up. You’re then left wondering whether your products will show up, or if you need to order again.
That said, an order confirmation email should be simple and concise. The example below from Amazon simply confirms the order has been received, gives the customer an estimated arrival date, and tells them how to review and track their order.
3. Reminder emails
When to send (3 emails): 28 days, 14 days, and 24 hours before action needs to be taken.
If you need to send your customers a reminder to do something – perhaps to renew their subscription, or to provide you with some extra information – then you should spell out exactly what they need to do next. Give as much detail as you can, and lay out a clear and intuitive process.
Again, be as helpful as you can in the email while also providing an option for added support should they need it.
4. Abandoned shopping cart alert
When to send (3 emails): 1 hour, 12 hours, and 24 hours after the cart is abandoned.
It’s estimated that around $4.6 trillion is lost each year from cart abandonment alone, yet more than half of this is recoverable with a timely reminder email.
Your abandoned cart email is sent to politely remind your customer that they’ve left the checkout before completing their transaction. It gives them a chance to pick up where they left off and offers a helpful point of contact in case they need extra support.
A visual of the product is usually a good cue to remind customers what they’re missing and will help get them back on site. A good, clear call-to-action directing them back to the product page or checkout will also help smooth the process.
5. Keeping customers connected
When to send: Following a purchase or sign-up.
If your customers have opted to receive updates from you, there’s nothing wrong with emailing to ask them to follow you on social media. In fact, it’s a great tactic for maximizing your opportunities to deepen your connection with your following.
That said, there are ways to ask your customers for social follows that are enticing rather than a turn-off. One is to send a dedicated request to connect over social media while offering an incentive, like a discount or competition entry when your customer posts using your hashtag. A less direct tactic is to provide social links in your welcome and confirmation emails.
Make sure you use appropriate and clear icons that click through to each of your social profiles.
6. Review requests
When to send: When the buyer journey has been completed (usually 7-30 days post-purchase).
Businesses rely on recommendations to boost their online customer base. Reviews are a huge part of this; and the great thing is that customers expect to be asked to leave a review.
But it’s important to get the tone right when asking for feedback. First, make sure you thank the customer for their recent purchase or booking. Second, make it easy for them to leave a review: provide a clear call-to-action, keep form fields to a minimum or use a simple star-rating system, and show them examples of reviews other customers have left.
It’s a modern-day necessity for businesses to use automated emails to respond to customers. They provide helpful customer service functions while saving time, and also help direct your customers to areas of your online presence that they’ve not yet explored.
When done well – when they’re personable, helpful, and relevant – they’ll not only address your customers’ immediate needs, but also support your broader online goals.
The key to a great automated email is good timing, helpful and personable content, and clear direction as to what your customer should do next.
Have you set up automated email responses for your business? If so, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below: