Mar 11, 2022

Read Time 7 min

Get back to basics: 4 email automation best practices for Customer Success


Writing, sending, and monitoring email is a non-stop grind for CSMs. You’re constantly either tackling incoming customer queries or firing off your own follow-ups. But thanks to email automation, you don’t have to stay chained to your inbox. Whether you’re a high-touch Customer Success team looking for automation in moderation, or a tech-touch team looking for more dynamic ways to personalize, email automation gives every message a human touch and every customer a white-glove experience.

Now, you may think that upping your email game means building out super elaborate email workflows with millions of triggers and paths and messages – which might be true if you’re an eCommerce giant. But in most cases, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication when it comes to email. So, no matter where you are in your journey with email automation, it never hurts to revisit the basics. As Michael Jordan once said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything else you do will rise.”

In that spirit, here are four email automation best practices you can use to take your Customer Success outreach up a notch.

1. Know the goal behind every email you send

If you find yourself shooting off emails to customers just to fill the space, stop and ask yourself why. Is it because you’re trying to hit some arbitrary benchmark for how often you should engage customers? Is it because it just seems like it’s been a while or it’s the right thing to do? If you’re unsure about what exactly you intend to achieve with an email, then I need you to slowly back away from the send button. Take stock of your objectives. Be clear about the purpose. Your email should only exist if it produces a specific action, preferably one that benefits the customer.

Because it’s easy to fall into the trap of setting goals based on what you, the vendor, want to achieve. You want a customer to schedule a meeting. You want a customer to download your latest training resource. But does that align with what the customer wants to experience? While your intentions might be pure, you need to have the self-awareness to understand how your customers perceive your outreach. If it comes across like you’re only acting in own self-interest, rethink your approach.

Settings goals for your email campaigns also allows you to measure their effectiveness. In ChurnZero, you can assign a goal to a play which is a feature used to create and automate customer engagements, including emails. To give you an example, let’s say you wanted to create a play to re-engage customers who have stopped using your product. You could set the play’s goal completion criteria to be when:

  • a customer enters a segment comprised of accounts who in the last 14 days have 100% license utilization and have used at least one or several of the sticky features specified; or
  • a customer exits a segment comprised of accounts who have not logged into the product in the last 90 days.

You can set plays to start and finish as soon as a customer meets their goal, whether that’s reaching a milestone or taking a desired action. So, if your re-engagement play included three emails but the customer completed a goal after receiving the first email, then they would be removed from the play and the subsequent emails would not send.

2. Target your emails with segmentation

Smart segmentation is the foundation of Customer Success, so naturally, that principle extends to its communications as well. Segments divide your customer base into groups of customers and users with similar characteristics and needs. These customer lists are the crux of your email strategy. Because it doesn’t matter how compelling your message is if it’s aimed at the wrong audience. Typically, when we think of segmenting customers, we may group them by their product type, industry, size, region, role, tenure, contract type, or churn reason, to name a few. These will always be important attributes to think about when shaping your approach, but once you have the basics down, you want to build on that foundation. To sharpen your targeting even more, consider segmenting your customers based on:

  • Customer Success processes and the customer lifecycle
    • Examples: customers stuck in onboarding or customer by product fit
  • Positive behavior and engagement
    • Examples: customers with more than 120 minutes in the app in the last 7 days or customers who started using Feature A and Feature B within their first month
  • Negative behavior and engagement
    • Examples: decision makers who are NPS detractors or customers whose license utilization has decreased 40% in the last month
  • Potential value and customer needs
    • Examples: customers with high growth potential by customer health or customers by intended use case (either self-reported or determined by the CSM)
  • Combination of all categories
    • Examples: customers with the “Gold” edition who are within six month of their renewal and are not using the two features that distinguish “Gold” and “Silver” editions

In ChurnZero, you can also segment customers based on their customer health score. These scores take a customer’s attributes and behavior a step further by allowing you to assign a weight to them based on their individual significance to their health. Pairing health scores with plays allows you to easily identify and engage customers who are at risk of churning, as well as those who are on the path to becoming a promoter. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you can also enter a customer into a play directly from the “ChurnScore Changes” dashboard to take action in the moment.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that even though a group of customers might have the same end goal, depending on their unique context, they may require different paths to attain it. Consider the form of outreach you need to provide to get various types of customers to achieve their outcomes.

3. Personalize beyond the content

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: don’t create an impersonal email experience. Everyone hates receiving generic emails. It sucks. It’s annoying, yet we’re quick to turn a blind eye to our own email practices. We’re busy people after all – who has the time to personalize when there’s work to be done! The funny thing is though, we often genericize emails to save ourselves time. We throw together one email justttttt detailed enough to be applicable to many, if not all, of our audiences and their needs. But by not putting in the upfront work to connect with our customers on a more meaningful level, we create more work for ourselves in the end. Because we have to send more follow-up emails to get their attention. We have to spend more time chasing down a response and devising alternative strategies. We have to spend more time convincing our customers that we are, in fact, worthy of their time – which is particularly distressing when we actually have something valuable to share.

Now, it goes without saying that merge fields are a cog in the personalization machine. They play a small yet essential role in creating tailored content at scale. In ChurnZero, you can use any customer data field as a merge field, which allows for near endless personalization possibilities. For example, you could send a customer a dashboard of their usage over the last 90 days. You can even add an extra personal touch with a dynamic email greeting that changes based on the number of email recipients. For any email with five or less recipients, our Smart Salutation will list out each contact’s name. Messages with six or more recipients will populate the inclusive word “everyone.”

But we know that a personal email greeting only gets you so far. Much of your personalization work will flow down from the segments you create. You’ll find that the more specific you make your audience, the easier it becomes to write to them. Because when you can envision the person (read: segment) you’re writing for based on all the different traits and nuances you know about them, tailoring a message becomes much more intuitive.

Outside of content, you also want to think about personalizing your email workflows depending on a customer’s behavior. For example, in ChurnZero you can configure conditional play logic to send customers down different automation paths based on their email engagement. This functionality allows you to save time and automate more complex workflows all within a single play.

As you consider whether it’s worth the time to personalize your emails, remember that the more generic your engagements are, the more generic your customers feel – and customers don’t renew on generic experiences.

4. Reinforce your message with other channels

In marketing, there’s what they call the rule of seven which states, on average, a customer must be exposed to your message seven times before they decide to purchase. Marketers have long understood that repetition is key to raising awareness and teaching new concepts. Now before we get any further, we’re not suggesting that you need to email your customers seven times to get them to engage. The point is, that most people need to see a message more than once, or even twice, before they act on it. So, how can you repeat your message to customers without clogging up their inbox? The answer is to branch out to other channels, specifically your own product. There’s no better time to get best practices or next steps in front of a customer than when they’re inside of your application actively using it. In-app communications provide a tactful, organic, and relatively non-intrusive way to promote your content.

In ChurnZero, you can use in-app announcements as part of your automated Plays and NPS campaigns. Using your customer data, you can target the right contacts at the right time to provide a more valuable experience and increase their likelihood to take action. Additionally, you can strengthen your email outreach using in-app product walkthroughs and checklists for more interactive engagements.

If you’re not seeing the engagement or outcomes you want from your emails, change up your approach. Meet your customers where they are – whether that’s via email, social, your product, or the phone.

As you begin to use other channels to spread your outreach far and wide, make sure you’re cognizant of the number of new or different messages you circulate at any one time. The goal is to stick to a few core messages and increase the frequency and channels in which you share them.

Think big: automate more than email

Email is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to automation opportunities. Much of your email automation’s effectiveness will stem from your customer data and processes. By automating these interconnected aspects of your work, you can start to be less tactical and more strategic in your role.

To learn more about the different outreach use cases for Customer Success automation, check out our blog, “12 quick and easy engagement automations for Customer Success.”


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