Web Tools: Customer satisfaction (August 2004)

How to avoid being mistaken for spam when responding to Web site e-mails

customer places an order, requests information, signs up for an e-mail newsletter or sends a message to you or someone else, e-mail responses give organizations a chance to demonstrate high customer-service standards, thereby increasing retention rates and reducing expensive interactions in the call center.

That's the business case for sending out automated e-mails, notes Jakob Nielsen, co-author of a recent study on confirmation e-mails and principal of Nielsen Norman Group. And as a content manager, you should play some kind of role in those e-mail exchanges, says Susan Farrell, user experience specialist at NNG.

As it turns out, few companies are making the grade. WCR talked with Farrell, lead researcher for Usability of Confirmation Email and Transactional Messages, about the "huge gap" between the best e-mailers, such as Amazon.com, and companies that appear to have no idea how to craft their automated e-mail strategy.

The reason: Often, the person responsible for creating those messages is too marketing focused and doesn't have the necessary technical, communications or writing skills.

Consider the following—and avoid being mistaken for spam, enhance your reputation and cut down on call center costs.

Nielsen sends out some mail

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