Marketing

What I learned from my involvement in an epic autoresponder fail

One bad email can ruin the whole bunch

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For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been shopping for motorcycles. The other day, I signed up on a website to test-ride the one I think I want.

A day later, I got this email: “I wanted to thank you for taking the time to come by and look at the 2015 [name of brand] street bike. Hopefully I answered all of your questions. I want to be sure you are 100 percent satisfied with the information I supplied you and the service you received. I would sincerely like to help you narrow down your decision and I was hoping you had some time this week to stop back in to pick up where we left off.”

Key points:

  • I never set foot in the dealership.
  • I never asked this person any questions.
  • He supplied me no information.
  • We never had any contact whatsoever.

Strike one.

In my opinion, that was a relatively significant customer relations faux pas. It was a poor way to kick off a relationship involving the potential sale of a somewhat expensive item.

But I try to not to jump to conclusions, and I pride myself on giving people multiple chances before writing them off. And — to be honest — I want this bike.

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So, I let it slide. In fact, I ended up replying to that email and the salesperson — I’ll call him Lance — and I have now exchanged a total of 19 emails. The most recent was last night, in which we discussed the details of my putting a deposit down on a bike, possible financing terms and anticipated delivery dates for the model I think I want.

Just a moment ago, I got this email from Lance: “It has been a while since you visited us at [name of dealership]. I wanted to take a moment and see if you had any lingering questions about the 2015 [name of brand] street bike you looked at. Selecting a vehicle to suit your needs takes time and sometimes a lot of energy. If you are still in the market for a 2015 [name of brand] street bike, I want you to know that I am still here to assist you. Whether your needs have changed or the 2015 [name of brand] street bike is still what you are interested in, I am here to make it easy for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me so I may be of assistance.”

Strike two.

This email also came from an entirely different email address than the one Lance had used to this point. This new email address had no connection to Lance or the dealership whatsoever.

Strike three?

Perhaps my expectations are a bit too high, but the totality of this blunder makes this dealership look quite amateurish.

My philosophy is that it’s better to do nothing than the wrong thing. And using email in this “disconnected from reality” manner is a bad way to go.

Will this impact my buying decision? Probably not, but only because supply and demand are such that I don’t have much choice. Otherwise, I’d probably be looking at another place to do business.

What does this have to do with real estate? I probably don’t have to answer that, do I?

Here are some real-life examples I’ve experienced personally:

  • A Web lead autoresponder that says, “I’m just getting ready to run out the door — what is a good time to call you?” Nice, in theory, until you think about the person getting that message at 3 a.m. in their local time zone.
  • The autoresponder email that says, “I’ll be out of the office from June 1 through June 8.” And it’s September.
  • A listing inquiry autoresponder that suggests a property is still for sale. When it sold three months ago.

In short, the use of email autoresponders and poorly constructed email campaigns can make a service business look less than professional. Make sure to check your consumer-facing systems to ensure you’re not accidentally pushing potential clients away with such poor practices.

Michael McClure is the chief operating officer at T3 Experts and the founder of the Raise the Bar Facebook Group. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Email Michael McClure.