By Chad Horenfeldt
“Why won’t they respond?”. You’re scratching your head as you try to understand why a customer has ghosted you.
You’ve done everything you can think of to get their attention. You sent them an email with custom data than you painstakingly compiled. You sent another email congratulating them on a recent their recent round of funding and their subsequent promotion. You’ve called them a few times after their vacation as they requested, but just got their voicemail. You’ve even sent one of those animated gifs asking if they have been eaten by an alligator. They are still are at their present company according to LinkedIn. You’re thinking “Why won’t they at least acknowledge my existence?” You are tempted to call the police to see if they have been abducted by aliens.
This is one of the most common and frustrating scenarios for Customer Success Managers. The reality is that your customers have overflowing inboxes and their own priorities. You need to take an unconventional approach to get their attention if they have ghosted you. While the alligator gif has the right idea of evoking an emotion, comic relief only goes so far. You need to hit your customers at a deeper level.
You can argue that things never should have got to this point. Establishing the right customer relationship and setting communication expectations needs to be done right from the start. The reality is much different. CSMs need more advanced weaponry with the rapid turnover that exists in our current economy. In this post I’ll outline some email techniques that are guaranteed to bring your customers back from the dead.
Using the Power of “No”
The first goal in reviving your customer relationship is to get your customer’s attention. You need to get past the inherent desire to delete your email with one finger swipe. How do you do this? The technique that I recommend is from author and former FBI negotiator, Christopher Voss in his book “Never Split the Difference”. He suggests leading with no-oriented questions in the subject line to evoke a response.
Here are some examples of no-oriented subject lines:
“Is this project no longer a priority to you?”
“Is X (your solution’s value prop) no longer important to you?”
“Have you given up on X?”
“Are you walking away from X?”
“Is it ok if the information you’re giving your boss is incorrect?
“Haven't heard from you – were the revenue reports not helpful?” (this example was recently used by one of our CSMs and the client responded in a few hours)
These “no” questions work as they give your customers the illusion of control. You’ve handed over authority to them by framing the question in a way where they feel obligated to respond. This technique also helps quickly build trust as you are focusing on their most important interests. You get right to the point so you don’t waste their time.
The other reason that this technique works is that most people hate being perceived as quitters. That’s why questions that include terms like “giving up” and “walking away” are very effective.
WARNING: This technique may make you feel uncomfortable. That’s OK as that’s how it’s supposed to make your customers feel so it jolts them back to life. You have to get past this.
One last thing to keep in mind: use this technique sparingly. Think of it as the red glass case you only break in case of an emergency. You have one shot so make it a good one.
Securing the Response
You’ve done a great job crafting a virtual shockwave with your no-orientated subject line. Your customers are guaranteed to open your email but will they actually respond? Chris Voss’ son, Brandon, has outlined two additional techniques in his recent blog post to help you here. He suggests ending your emails on a positive note and using “email softeners” so you you are perceived positively and as having your customer’s best intentions at heart.
Ending on a positive note: Ending positively goes beyond using a cheery salutation such as “I can’t wait to hear from you”. Conclude your email with a powerful, yet simple call to action. For example, “I would like to discuss this further. Here are some dates and times that I’m available. How does this sound?”.
Using email softeners: You may have been told never to appear weak or to apologize in your communication with customers. Brandon suggests the opposite approach. Negotiation is all about emotions and if you demonstrate empathy and that you care, you will establish trust. Have a quick read through your email before you send it and add in phrases such as “I’m sorry” and “I’m afraid” where applicable.
Here’s an example. Instead of writing “If you don’t make this change, you will risk losing an estimated $20,000 in revenue,” try: “I’m afraid that if you don’t make this change, you will risk losing an estimated $20,000 in revenue” or “I’m sorry but if you don’t make this change, you will risk losing an estimated $20,000 in revenue”. Which approach do you feel tries to elicit emotion and build rapport? It’s OK to add in some touchy feely to your communications. I’m sorry but you’ll have to accept this idea or risk this technique not working as expected.
I challenge you to pick out a customer that has ghosted you and go on the offensive. Start by crafting a no-oriented question that will provoke a reaction and follow that up with a positive ending that will compel your customers to hit “reply”. Mix in a few email softeners and you have the perfect ghostbusting formula. Who’s afraid of those ghosts now?
The Success League is a customer success consulting firm focused on building top performing leaders and teams. Does your group need more ideas on effective customer communication? Our CSM Certification Program includes classes like Asking Great Questions and Difficult Conversations that tackle some of the most challenging situations CSMs find themselves in. Visit TheSuccessLeague.io for more information about our consulting and training solutions.
Chad Horenfeldt - Chad is a customer success executive with 15+ years of experience building and developing high performing teams. Currently, he is the Vice President of Client Success at Updater. Prior to Updater, Chad held CS leadership positions at Bluecore, Influitive, and Oracle (Eloqua). In addition to writing for The Success League, he also writes regularly on the topic of customer success on his blog The Enlightened Customer.