The most valuable email I ever automated

by Alex MacCaw

Email runs everything at and we get email updates for every sign up, upgrade, cancellation, and other major user interactions. Essentially we use email like a poor man's logging system which has the major advantage of letting me see all a customer's actions, and any emails we've corresponded with them, all in one place.

Whenever we have subscription churn I reach out to the customer in person, asking if there's anything we could do to improve the product and kept their custom. This short exit-interview has turned into one of our most valuable sources of feedback we get.

The email goes something like this:

[Subject] & Sprockets

Hi James Smith,

We're sorry to lose you as a customer.
Do you have any thoughts or feedback on
Anything we could improve upon?


Over time as the business has expanded to hundreds of paying customers I've ended up automating the sending of this email. Naturally I'll always address any follow ups in person but automating the initial email makes it a bit less labor intensive. We have enough information on users to create a convincing email with a custom subject and first name, and then we use Resque Scheduler to send the email about two hours after accounts are deactivated.

This email has a surprisingly high response rate and the feedback we get is incredibly valuable to the business. The reasons people give for canceling range from the product is too expensive, to the fact that they're not hiring anymore, to a specific feature we're missing.

Suggestions from this email go straight back into the product cycle and we make sure to keep track of who requested what so we can follow up whenever that feature is implemented.

The other aspect from this email is that it's a good source of sales. Often we can encourage customers to re-activate their accounts or introduce us to their recruiting team. It's probably the most valuable email we send.