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Email Response is a Customer Health Indicator for CSMs

As a customer success manager (CSM), email responses from your clients can be indicators of customer health.

Let me explain.

Email is Used by Everyone in Business

Email is embedded into our business communication and has become an important mechanism CSMs use to build value, solve problems, and deliver customer success. We check email constantly, first thing in the morning, many times during an hour, and even at night before we go to bed. Many of us are even guilty of checking email on vacation, over holidays, and even during the middle of the night. Email is the backbone of communication in today’s technologically-driven world, even with new business communication tools like text messages and Slack that are gaining traction.

The Use of Email (Email Statistics)

  • There are over 4.35 billion email accounts accounts. This figure is predicted to reach 5.59 billion by 2019 which is a growth of more than 26% – Radicati Group (2015)
  • There are 2.586 billion email users worldwide, including both business and consumer users – Radicati Group (2015)
  • 72% of US online adults send or receive personal emails via smartphone at least weekly – Forrester (2014)
  • 122,500,453,020 emails are sent every hour – MarketingProfs (2014)

You get my point. Everyone is using email to communicate.

Email Response as an Indicator of Customer Health

Now let’s add email response to the mix. The type of response you get from an email can be an indicator of customer health. While the list of email response types may be long, let me suggest five that could indicate poor customer health or relationship risk:

5 Emails Responses that Indicate Customer Health and Risk

1. Your Emails Aren’t Getting Opened

Using tools like Hubspot’s Sidekick, you can see real-time notifications when a customer opens your email. But what’s going on if a customer doesn’t open your email(s) for an extended period of time? What if they never open some of your emails at all? Perhaps they’re out of the office and forgot to set an OOO reply or didn’t email you directly, but if it continues happening, it may be cause for a red flag. If your emails aren’t being opened, how important is your company’s relationship to that customer?

2. Your Emails Aren’t Getting a Response

If you’ve sent multiple “just following up on X” emails and they’re not getting a response, it could be a result of many different scenarios. Perhaps the customer doesn’t know how to reply, maybe they are working on the response and need to engage other team members first, maybe they haven’t had time to sit down and craft the right response, or, maybe there’s a reason they are putting the email off.

Is your customer unhappy with the product or a service? Are they too busy to put time into the relationship? Are they evaluating a replacement to your product or service? Emails that are opened but aren’t responded to call for a big red flag.

3. The Response Time is Stalled

If your customer is notorious for a slow response, then perhaps this isn’t something to pay close attention. But if your customer is generally very responsive and timely, and they are suddenly slow to respond (days or even weeks later), there may be a variety of factors in play. Of course, everyone has a personal life outside of work, and sometimes that needs to take priority. Perhaps they have several big projects in the works that are demanding their time. But a slow response can also mean that the customer isn’t prioritizing your relationship, or perhaps doesn’t see the value in responding – until prompted by several “follow-up” emails later.

4. The Response is Short & Abrasive

If your customer is generally pleasant in your email exchanges and his or her tone changes dramatically, it may be a situation that they have communicated to you already. If the product or service isn’t working properly, if they aren’t getting a response to a request, or if they were treated rudely by another member of the team, those are all fair reasons for a short or abrasive email.

But if it’s out of the norm for your customer and if you aren’t aware of anything out of the ordinary, then there could be a variety of factors in play. Perhaps they are dealing with a personal matter, but maybe they are receiving pressure from their boss about your product or service or are evaluating other vendors, or maybe you have offended your customer. Short and abrasive emails that are out of character can certainly warrant caution.

5. Your Customer’s Boss (or Your Boss) is Cc’d

You know the customer is serious about a matter when either their manager or an executive from their company is copied on the email or your manager or company executive is copied. If the email is part of an ongoing string, that’s one thing. But when a customer adds an executive or manager to the email thread, it can be worrisome – especially if it’s regarding a product or service issue. While there are certainly things an executive should be copied in on, an everyday conversation isn’t usually one of those times, and the sudden addition could be a warning sign that they want action or resolution – and fast.

What is Email Telling You About Your Customers?

Email can be a great temperature gauge for your customer relationships. While the email channel certainly can’t tell you as much as a face-to-face conversation or even a phone call, we are tied to our email accounts and have a good sense of how are customers typically respond. If something is out of the ordinary, then we tend to put up radars – and for good reason.

How do you think about email response as a relationship indicator for your customers?

Check out our resources below for more customer success best practices and insights for how your organization can approach customer success with the customer at the center:


5 Ways to Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Customer Success as a Culture: Customer Success Leaders Edition

Blog Posts:

3 Keys to Restoring Customer Confidence

6 Listening Techniques of Great Customer Success Leaders

Learn more about how ClientSuccess can help your company develop a strong Customer Success methodology and strategy with easy-to-use customer success software by requesting a 30-minute demo.

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