Klassic Books: an excellent example of how not to write an email requesting help

You might have guessed this and if you have not then I can tell you that I am a prolific reader.  As such I tend to buy more than my fair share books and most of the time I am good at leaving reviews for booksellers.  My thinking: put something into the game, help people out (buyers) and reward good behaviour by booksellers.   It just so happens that I have been particularly busy this month and so have not kept up to date with that which needs to be done including writing reviews. Most of the time when I get a reminder I act on it.  Then I got this reminder – asking for feedback – and it instantly it got my back up.  Why?

How did this email land for me?

Here is the email that I received from Klassic Books – please note that I have highlighted certain parts of the email (the original email was not highlighted):

“Dear Mazafer Iqbal,

As informed to you earlier,  your order number 202-3674826-8273966 for book titled ” I am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj”  placed with KLASSIC Books at Amazon.co.uk has already been delivered to you.

We once again request you to leave your valued feedback on this purchase. To leave feedback, go to http://www.amazon.co.uk/feedback  and sign in with your e-mail address and password. When you find this order, click the ”Leave feedback” button.

As we are a new seller, a positive feedback from you shall help us become a valued seller on Amazon.co.uk

We look forward to another  opportunitity to serve you again.

Klassic Books”

So let’s just take a closer look.  I buy a book from Klassic Books via Amazon and as such I enter into a contract: I pay for the book and Klassic Books agrees to send me the book I ordered and that book has to confirm to the listing (new, used etc).  That contract was fulfilled when I received the book within the agreed timescale and the book was in perfect condition.  I am not obliged to do any more.

Leaving a review for this seller or any other seller is a DISCRETIONARY effort on my part. Does the writer of this email from Klassic Books get that?  Does he/she have any understanding of human beings as human beings?  I don’t think so – the email has ‘ruined’ a good experience and left a sour taste in my mouth such that I have no intention of buying anything from this seller.  Why?  Because there email, lands in my world, as both a telling off (for not responding to their first email) and an order to leave a review this time!  Also, it is all about Klassic Books – not about me, not about a worthy cause/mission, not about creating or contributing to a ‘better world’.  Finally, it lacks any sign of that human touch.  And the word “opportunity” is misspelt – a sin that is all too common (include me in here) when it comes to email.

The lesson

If you want a customer to help you out then take time to craft the communication such that it lands positively in the customers world.  Whatever you do, do not make it sound like you are giving orders and/or telling the customer off.  None of us likes to be ordered around and told off.  Why?  We intrinsically value autonomy – being ordered around violates that need/drive for autonomy.  The telling off violates our sense of self worth, self-esteem, dignity – it puts us back into the classroom being told off and feeling humiliated, in front of the class, by an oversized ego called Teacher.  We didn’t like it then and we don’t like it now.  Incidentally, this is why most performance reviews, over the longer term, destroy relationships, intrinsic motivation and performance.

Some questions worth pondering?

How much of your communication lands in your customer’s world as:

  • you talking about your self and your needs (like the Klassic Books email)?
  • you selling stuff that is simply irrelevant to the customer’s situation and needs?
  • to hard to read due to the design (layout, text, fonts….) and so is not read?
  • incomprehensible because you use complex words and industry jargon that leaves your customers confused?
  • snake oil as your claims seem overblown / far fetched / too good to be true?
  • incomplete – not providing all the information that the customer needs to make a decision, to move forward?

Finally, how much of your communication ruins the customer experience and thus incentives your customers to stop doing business with you?

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

6 thoughts on “Klassic Books: an excellent example of how not to write an email requesting help”

    1. HEllo Guy

      It has been a long time since we struck up a conversation. I hope that you are doing fantastically well.

      Yes, I did find it rather amusing that we both approached the same subject matter at the same time and from complimentary angles. I do not know if you noticed that I tweeted your post – I liked it that much!

      All the best and my thanks for sharing your view here on this blog – I value you and I value your contribution.



  1. You are making a ridiculous fuss about nothing. Leaving feedback is a normal part of online trade so we know whom to trust. It was request, not an order, although the email could have been worded slightly differently so as to be clear it was optional. But is there enough time to consider all nit-pickers? What your list of questions has to do with the email I do not know, but you seem to be super-sensitive about your own affairs. They were simply confirming your order and politely requesting an optional acknowlegment in return, not a surly reply.


  2. Hello and welcome,

    It is quite possible that you are correct. It is possible that I read more into it then the sender intended to communicate. It is also possible that I misread it entirely. Now the question is this one: who is responsible for the way that the communication landed for me?

    The traditional answer is that I am the one. Another answer, is that the s/he who initiates the conversation is responsible for the response s/he elicits.

    I say that if you are business communicating with customers then you are standing in a powerful position when you take responsibility for the responses to your communication. Why? Because, when you take responsibility then you are in a position to do something about it. Else, you play the victim to “unreasonable” or “ignorant” customers. That is not going to get you far.

    And you are also right when you say that I am a nit picker. I see it differently, I have standards and values that matter to me. Your response is the response I get from members of my family when I say that they should use proper words instead of slang. Or that they use please at the end of a request so that it lands as a request and not an order. Or if I say that they should use ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’, ‘aunt’, ‘uncle’ rather than ‘he’, ‘she’. Yes, I am a nit picker – I like to think on the stuff that matters. And it is possible that I am kidding myself.

    For my part, I thank you for creating this conversation between us. And I wish you the very best.

    At your service and with my love


  3. Your own posting, “Klassic Books: an excellent example of how not to write an email requesting help
    | THE CUSTOMER BLOG” was in fact worthy of commenting down here in the comment section!

    Simply just needed to announce you did a great job. I appreciate it ,Pauline


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