By Ray Parenteau
Last-minute shoppers (me included) found themselves scurrying around during the week before the holidays to find the perfect gift.
For email service providers, a parallel situation is the “last-minute-mailer.” It typically plays out like this:
Banker: We need to send an email to our customers right away because [insert reason here].
Vendor: Do you have a current list of customer email addresses? When was the last email? Is it scrubbed of opt-outs and bounce-outs? Have you received some sort of permission to email this list?
Banker: We’re not sure. We’re still querying our systems, but we can get the list and the message to you this week. How fast can you get the message out?
If you’re up-to-date on email best practices, you can see the issues here. Emailing customers out of the blue is a tricky proposition with many potential pitfalls. According to research, nearly one-quarter of banks don’t have an email marketing program.
Additionally, many banks use email marketing sporadically, with out-of-date lists, which could affect their sender reputation and deliverability.
Email is a great tool to reach customers for both marketing and operational reasons. Notifications regarding data breaches, system issues and weather situations affecting branch hours are common ways to convey proactive customer service information. However, unlike Christmas shopping, these events are not predictable and can be more stressful. To avoid the “last-minute-mailer” stress, you should maintain a ready-to-go process that enables you to email your customers within hours of an event or situation. Here’s an email preparedness checklist:
–Current “active” email list. It’s true that you can’t reach every customer via email. But with increased use of digital channels, many banks now have a significant percentage of customer email addresses. Staying in touch with this cohort, especially during service issues, takes on an important role. So you need a reliable email list.
For email, reliability translates to deliverability. That means fewer than 10 percent undeliverable addresses (less than 5 percent is a much better goal). This can only be achieved by consistently emailing the entire list (eight to 12 times per year) and cleaning out bounces and opt-outs. Ideally, you’ll also have a process in place to correct bad email addresses for those undeliverables.
–Ready-to-go message template. When sending out an operational alert, speed and precision are critical. Make sure you have a simple, easy to complete message template. This is typically seen as a business communication so keep it simple with graphics and design. All you need is a neat, single-column format with your logo and the appropriate heading for the topic, along with up to date footer information. Keep the type black or dark grey on a white background.
–Review and approval process. Once it’s been decided to send the message, you need to get it right. Make sure multiple people in the organization can easily view, proofread and comment on the message. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have a preset list of internal recipients who should review these messages.
–Active approved vendor relationship. Finally, make sure you have a reliable, approved vendor to deploy the message for you. This is especially important if you are importing new records into the system. Many email vendors won’t allow new clients to upload lists without some sort of vetting process. When you’re crunched for time, the last thing you need is another hoop to jump through.
Just as online shopping and next-day delivery have made life easier for last-minute shoppers, being prepared can take the stress out of being a last-minute-mailer.