Annoying customers with a barrage of emails has become cheaper than delivering good service

Regular readers will know that ‘lazy marketing’ is a bugbear of mine and one area that has got out of hand is marketing automation.

Secret Marketer

Don’t get me wrong, using customer triggers to send pre-agreed communications can be an efficient and valuable way to get people to bite just when they’re hungry. But I see little evidence of insightful forward planning. In my experience, few plan for the customer actually responding to a mailing. I’ve had countless ‘did you see our email’ automated follow-ups despite having responded to the original. There may be a very few times when a customer has genuinely overlooked the initial contact but I’m sure that nine times out of 10 they have deleted it intentionally, so what is the point of your follow-up except to annoy?

A month ago, I switched to BT Infinity broadband. I did not follow the set process map, as I spoke to someone on the telephone and completed the order online. I have received 20 letters from BT since then, from saying they were sorry I had cancelled (even though I had not), to asking me to return my router (I was upsold from one version to the next on the call, without getting the first one), and sending me bills for things that were free in the deal, followed by bills for negative amounts, followed by bills for £0. Would the cost of a human being sorting this out been cheaper than generating those 20 letters? I fear that annoying customers is cheaper than delivering a seamless service.

And BT isn’t the only offender.

I ordered a Christmas gift from Amazon; it got lost, so Amazon offered an upgraded version. But I then received an email saying that the lost item had been returned to them, and my order cancelled. Another email refunded me £2.05 because the second order was cheaper on postage (they are the same size/weight and I got free postage anyway). A human being had advised me initially, so why the barrage of emails?

As marketers we seem to think that using technology gives us permission to be clever, that removing cost from processes allows us to be cheaper at the point of purchase. But we forget that all this is at the expense of the customer experience.

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