Transactional emails done right (Stripe edition)

One of the unsung heroes of the email world are transactional emails. Everyone’s so enamored with onboarding, welcome, abandoned cart, and retention-focused emails that transactional emails… get forgotten.

After all, they’re the one emails you don’t have to worry about. They come pre-made and they just work right out of the box. And so you focus all your attention on making sure your onboarding or welcome flow is top notch.

But here’s the thing… Transactional emails are some of the most opened emails. They’re also some of the most neglected. Do them right, and you have the potential to not only delight a customer but also keep them from panicking.

This morning, I got an email from Stripe telling me that someone who’d signed up for the eCommerce Email Bootcamp had disputed a payment they’d made as fraudulent. Even though I’ve been running the Bootcamp for 3 years and have trained over 60 email marketers and copywriters, this is the first time it’s happened.

I got an email from my bank that I’d been charged by Stripe. Then I got an email from Stripe that a payment had been marked as fraudulent. Now this is where I’d have started panicking. 

Firstly, because that word feels like someone’s attacking my integrity. As someone who goes out of her way to turn away people the Bootcamp isn’t a good fit for, I find that word personally offensive.

Secondly because we’re still within the refund policy timeframe. So for someone to dispute their payment as fraudulent instead of just emailing me to say they wanted out felt disrespectful and unnecessary. But that email from Stripe? It took care of everything and stopped me from panicking. It reminded me that this is just business. That they knew how to deal with this. And that I had options.

Below is a breakdown of all the ways their email stopped me from panicking.

  1. They told me there may be a way to recover my funds

Loss of money is a shock no matter what the amount. Stripe immediately set me at ease by telling that I may be able to recover my funds and that they could help me respond through the Stripe dashboard.

I now had a place to go to start sorting this out.

  1. They recognized that this might be the first time this has happened.

Stripe recognized that I may not even fully understand what a disputed payment is and gave me an explanation. It also told me what the cardholder did (contact their bank), what the bank did (return the payment), and what else happened (an additional $15 deducted from my account).

  1. They explained why payments are sometimes marked as fraudulent

Reading this stopped me from getting personally offended and give this person the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they really didn’t recognize the descriptor. After all, it does say Emails Done Right instead of eCommerce Email Bootcamp. 

It’s a slim chance but it could happen.

  1. They explained their role in this situation

When things like this happen, it’s easy to blame the company that bears the bad news. They make it clear that they have no control over this and they’re just the party that’s notified (and is in turn responsible for notifying me. Now this is where Stripe could have dropped the ball.

They could have said, we’re just the bearer of bad news – this is out of our hands. But they decide to stick by their customer (in this case, me.)

  1. They tell me what my next step can potentially be

Because this is a dispute, it’s up to me to accept or fight it. But they also recognize that sometimes people decide to resolve the dispute for whatever reason. If that’s what I wanted to do, they told me what I needed to do next.

And finally…

  1. They addressed the one question that was on my mind – how do I avoid this from happening again.

By telling me they had a fraud prevention system, it made me hopeful that this might not happen again. Upon digging further, I noticed that Stripe had blocked their first attempt to sign up for the Bootcamp. Then they used another email address (from the same domain) and it passed through. This means that at the very least, I can get in touch with Stripe and ask them how to block new payment/signup attempts from this domain.

And just as I was thinking this… their email offered me the most reassuring option yet.

  1. They asked me to hit reply if I needed assistance.

They were empathetic and acknowledged that this was a tough situation and they if I needed more help or had any questions, I could just reply to their email. Now, I don’t know about you but this email is *chef’s kiss*. Transactional emails aren’t just order, shipping, and/or delivery confirmation emails. They’re also the bearer of bad news sometimes.

And when they are, an email written that wants to help (instead of just delivering the bad news) will go a long way in creating a loyal customer. As for the dispute, I decided to accept it. The way I see it, I got saved from a much bigger headache down the line. And were within the refund policy timeframe so I’m more than happy to let them go.

Moral of the story: Be like Stripe. Create better transactional emails.

It doesn’t take much.

All they did was share information with me but it was enough for me to deal with this unfamiliar and challenging situation.


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