[EDITOR’S NOTE]: Back when I used to have my Email Copy Academy coaching group (it’s no longer for sale, so please don’t ask – you’re not getting in)… I had a LOT of talented copywriters come through. One of those very talented writers is named Carrie Carr. As an email copywriter, you need to wear a lot of hats. You need to be a researcher. You need to be able to generate strong hooks. And most importantly, you need to be able to execute on your ideas as you go from “good hook” to a finished email that’ll sell. Carrie is excellent in all these areas. Every time I get a piece of copy back from her I’m amazed at how she works in just the right amount of details, storytelling, visual language, and persuasion. The stories in her emails pop off the page. She’s got the goods. If you’re not already on her email list, you should be: click here to join Carrie’s email list. When Carrie was in ECA, I told her: “If I ever start an e-commerce email marketing agency, I want you to be a part of it.” And well… that’s exactly what happened! This week, Carrie has the wheel and she’ll be steering this pirate ship for the duration of this email breakdown. I’ll let her take it from here…     When Chris asked me to contribute to his Email of the Week series, I realized I would be writing to two audiences: You… … and Chris Orzechowski. Winning over Chris is easy: Just submit one long series of Mad Men gifs and you’re golden.  I’m a copywriter though so I might want to, you know, actually write something.
I gave it my best shot.
  I figure YOU came here for the email marketing value bombs. So let’s split the difference, okay? This week’s email is a little different. I wouldn’t have come across this little gem if Chris hadn’t given me a very specific mission: “Go out there and write me THE BEST customer service response email in the world of e-commerce marketing.” And well, I think we delivered on that. That might sound arrogant but really it’s not. Because to my knowledge, NOBODY is doing this very well.  I spent a lot of time scouring the interwebs for some inkling of creativity in this arena and I found zilch.  But you know what? That’s actually GREAT news for people like you and me. It means there’s this huge open door and you can walk right on through. 
Ready to turn some customer heads like the badass business owner you are?
    That said, I did discover exactly ONE inspiring customer service response email from Zappos, the online shoe store.  Well, it’s not from Zappos per se…   I was looking for the kind of email you get after you message a company with a complaint like your shipment hasn’t arrived yet or you were overcharged or you just didn’t like how the mail carrier looked at you funny.  Those customer service auto-responses are all pretty terrible. Generally, the company you’re complaining to comes back with something akin to “Piss off.”
Message received, Faceless MegaCorp’s Customer Care Team.
That’s NOT what this is.  This is a verifiable 1:1 email from one human being to another. It’s from Paul, presumably just a drone in the customer service cubicle farm.  And you know what? For our purposes today, an email from Paul is just fine. Actually, it’s better than fine. I’ll explain why in a sec, but first… 

The Rules For Email Of The Week

Every week, Chris (Draper) Orzechoiwski – or one of his Peggys – goes out into the wild to find a super-effective e-commerce marketing email and breaks down what made it work. Regardless, the result is you get an inside look at smart strategies and best practices YOU can use to make your own emails better. Sometimes you might get lucky and come across something this good in your inbox, but I landed on this one in a fit of desperate and most unfruitful Pinterest searching. Regardless of where you find it, when you read an email worthy of Email of the Week, the first thing you should do is screenshot that baby and send it over to (chris at theemailcopywriter dot com) with a brief message about what you liked about it. If Chris chooses to do a breakdown of the email you sent, he’ll give you a shout out and link to your site. The only rule is… you can’t pick yourself. Okay, enough of all that. Let’s check out the Email of the Week…  

Lame-o Subject Line? Not so fast…  

  At first glance this subject line is pretty tame. But you know what? Zappos totally gets away with it. That’s because…
  1. It tells the reader this email is in answer to their request, so they’re going to open it. It does the job. Honestly, if Zappos tried to get creative with this one, it would only hurt their open rate.
  2. It doesn’t even hint at what’s to come in this email, which makes it so much more fun!
The first sentence is still boilerplate…     Although I will say, if you start every email with the goal of making your customer smile, you’re off to a pretty good start. Okay, now we’re getting to the good stuff…

Owning Up to It

    Would you look at that? A huge e-commerce megabeast is empathizing with one of its millions of customers?  
I feel better already.
That AND they’re taking responsibility for a less-than-stellar experience? It shouldn’t be so revolutionary, but far too many corporations go on the defensive. That’s just short-sighted, IMO.  It’s clear that Paul has been given a different directive, as well see in just a sec…

Customer Service Guy, Awaaaaaay!

Now Paul takes his directive to “put a smile on your face” 100% literally (if not seriously)…     Normally I’d tell you to make your customer the hero, but a customer service email might be the one exception to that rule.   I mean what do your customers really want when they contact customer service? They want the problem fixed FOR THEM, without having to jump through a bunch of hoops. That gives you a chance to save the day. Heck, if you handle it the right way, you can turn what would have been a raging mad customer into a raging fan – who will screenshot your email and post it to pinterest (so I can find it and brag about your incredible customer service). Okay on to the next line…


  Now, I’m not saying YOU should be theme-y like this in your customer service emails. You have to speak in a voice that reflects your brand. This probably wouldn’t work for Merrill Lynch or (another stuffy brand). But if you decide to go silly – don’t be afraid to go all in.  
Let loose every once in a while.
  That’s exactly what Paul does here… he’s leaning into the superhero theme. And it works because reading a vintage Batman comic is way more fun than a customer response robo-email.

“Whoa! What was that?!”

Okay, there are so many reasons to love ^^this^^ line.  If the rule in copy is that every line compels you to read the next, this baby does it’s job more smoothly than Joan Holloway rearranges the girls in the typing pool. There is no way you’re skipping the next line.   


Alright, I have to wonder what Paul is doing these days. Is he a copywriter? A stand-up comedian? The CMO of an e-commerce shoe giant?  Paul is tying the email together with these repeating onomatopoeic words – that’s an SAT word for the type of BLAMMO! words you find in old-school comics. The repeating sounds and even the way he’s formatted them, alone on a single line in all-caps with an exclamation point, it grabs your attention at a glance, before you’ve read a single line of copy and it invites you in.  You can’t ignore this email, even if you wanted to. 

Paul gets super cereal (but just a sec)

    Although Paul leads with the superhero theme, he gets serious fast. It’s smart because this is the part that needs to be 100% clear to the reader. It would kinda ruin the whole thing if something went wrong here and your customer had to respond with, “wait, what am I supposed to do now?” Paul and Zappos make sure you know, step-by-step, what your end of the bargain is. And then…


  Alright, enough of that serious stuff. Paul’s picking up where he left off before the dry-but-necessary shipping instructions.  This is great because Paul is making sure you don’t leave thinking about all that work you’re going to have to do. Now you’re just thinking about how Zappos made it easy and fun.  And bonus… you get a $15 coupon. Considering their customer has to take time out of her day to box up the defective shoes, print a label, drive to the store, and ship them off… that’s worthy of some compensation. And adding that little second apology is a nice touch. If it weren’t for that line I might lose it.  
I’m pissed and you’re trying to sell me more of your stuff?!
  But you know what? I’m thinking of an I’m-sorry gift a little differently. I might even take you up on it. It doesn’t hurt that the coupon is for a dollar-amount instead of a percentage. It feels a lot more like free money and less like another flash-sale discount offer. Imagine making a sale off a customer service email? From an angry customer. And have them thank you for it!

A good way to deliver bad news

Now Paul has a new challenge… he’s got to tell the customer she can’t get a new pair of the same shoes. But look at how he handles it:  Paul apologizes FOR A THIRD TIME.   (A man who’s this good at apologies? I’m married, but I have to wonder if this guy is single. Single ladies do yourself a favor and look Paul up!)  Then we finally learn the limits of Paul’s superpowers…  He would teleport the new pair of shoes if he could, but I guess he can’t manifest a new identical pair of shoes with nothing but the power of his mind. That would be pretty cool, though. Paul’s masterful use of the call-back Finally, to wrap things up and leave on a high note, Paul uses a tactic comedians call “the call back:”   I learned about the call back from standup-turned-copywriter Mike Lukas. A call-back is when a comedian brings back elements of a joke told at the beginning of a set at the end. Even though you’ve just “met” it leaves you feeling like you’ve got an inside joke. And here, not only does Paul lean into the superhero theme again, but he also reminds you of his superhero name.
Up up and away, Captain Anomalyyyyy!
No need to come up with something new and clever, Just remind them of that time… you know…when he made you laugh a minute and 24 seconds ago. There you go: two laughs for the price of one. And you leave on a high note.  All in all, this email serves the customer perfectly: It anticipates exactly what the customer wants, exceeds that expectation, AND it makes what could be a tedious experience FUN. 
Nice work, customer service dude.

Big takeaways from Zappos customer service email

  1. Never let a crisis go to waste. All customer service experiences, even (or especially!) the bad ones are opportunities to surprise and delight your customers.
  2. Be personal. Your email should look like it’s from one person to one person. Even (or especially!) if you’re sending an automated email, make sure it looks and feels personal.
  3. Empathize. The first rule of customer service is to acknowledge your customer’s pain and take responsibility.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry. …and I mean legit apologize (none of this “I’m sorry you feel that way” stuff).
  5. Look for inspiration everywhere. You can and should use a 1:1 email like this one to inspire your automated and broadcast emails. But inspiration could strike at any time. Even at the comic book store.
  6. Don’t be boring. Aim to be the most interesting thing your reader will read all day.
  7. Give yourself permission to get silly. You don’t have to choose a silly theme for your emails, but it can work – even for a big corporation like Zappos.
  8. Clear over clever. When it comes to the important stuff, get real and get clear. Don’t lose sight of what your email needs to accomplish.
  9. Put some thought into formatting. If it’s organized and easy-to-read, your email is more likely to get read.
  10.  Leave ‘em laughing. Use the call-back concept to end on a high note.

Orzy’s Analysis

It’s kind of funny… A while back I told my mentor, Kevin Rogers, that I was getting so busy I just didn’t have time to do any new Email of the Week series posts. These breakdowns take a lot of time. I mean there are other copywriter teachers who’s paid products aren’t half as good as these email breakdowns. I won’t name names, but you know who I’m talking about. 😉 Kevin gave me the suggestion that the writers from my agency could have some interesting takes on these emails. I was worried… because when you start building an organization bigger than yourself… you ALWAYS worry that people won’t be able to do as good of a job as you would. The funny thing is… As you begin to delegate tasks, you realize: you really suck at all the stuff you’re doing… and other people CAN and WILL do a better job than you. You realize that YOU are ALWAYS the bottleneck. And when you get out of your own way, your team can flex their muscles and kick some ass. As I’ve had Eddie Biroun, Robert Lucas, John Holt, and now Carrie Carr take over these Email of the Week breakdowns… I now realize I should have done this a long time ago. Because I think these breakdowns have been hot fire flames. And I think the quality of the content and teaching in these email breakdowns is simply incredible. Carrie’s breakdown was fantastic. I think she nailed the analysis. And I’m glad she chose this email to break down, because I personally think this mirrors her writing style. She’s able to infuse her own writing with this visual language and conversational, fun tone. I’ll say it once again, if you’re not on her list… get on it now: http://www.groundworkcopywriting.com/  That’s all I got. Great job with this one Carrie.

What To Do Now

  1. Subscribe to Chris’ email list so you can get ALL of the Emails of the Week delivered straight to your inbox, automatically.
  2. Leave a comment below and let me know what you liked about this email.
  3. Send this breakdown to someone you know. You might help them get their content to go viral.
  4. Get some shoes from Zappos. And dissect all their emails.

2 thoughts on “[Email of the Week #55]: Zappos”

  1. Hi Carrie & Chris,

    Splendid email breakdown… However, I’m a little puzzled as to how this email was used by Zappos. Was this email an automated response, or was Paul replying to a customer complaint email directly?

    If it’s an automated response, then I’d like to know how to set up an email automated response email to instantly pull the customer’s order info… identify the shoes that was purchased (he knew the show wasn’t in stock anymore), and then issue a refund.

    So, is this an automated email or no? 🙂

    Many thanks!! Donald

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