Help Scout Inspires With Honesty & Advice In Times Of Crisis

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Back in August, we featured Help Scout in our inspiration series for their mobile-friendly email announcing the Help Scout API (it’s a great email, you should check it out!) Help Scout is back at it again — this time they inspired us with their “oops” email addressing an outage with their service.


The content of this email is wonderful. Help Scout anticipated the types of questions and concerns their customers would have and addressed them one by one in clearly labeled sections of the email: “How We’re Getting Better,” “How We Communicate During a Crisis,” and “What to Do During an Outage.” Not only does Help Scout explain why the downtime occurred (an outage with their cloud hosting provider, Amazon Web Service), they take full responsibility for the incident, which really shows integrity. They aren’t blaming the outage on AWS; instead, they are informing their customers about what they are doing to prevent extended downtimes in the future, such as prioritizing infrastructure updates. Knowing that Help Scout acknowledges the crisis and is working on preventing further disturbances, creates a sense of trust with the subscriber.

Help Scout also addresses where customers can find help and updates during an outage: on Twitter and on their status page. In addition, they provide useful information to help subscribers work around outages and still respond to incoming emails in an emergency. All of the copy in this email is extremely relevant to the subscriber and helps build trust to create a long-lasting relationship between Help Scout and their customers. While this email was sent in direct response to a crisis—it was also a relationship building communication.


While the design of this email is very simple and to-the-point, it pairs nicely with the content. In a recent article summarizing how businesses handled emergency communications after Hurricane Sandy, Kristina Huffman advised brands to have an ad hoc template ready to go at all times. Huffman advised readers, saying “A disaster is not a time to design a new email format or code a new template. You don’t want designers or coders involved in an approval process when you have an emergency email that needs to go out.”

Help Scout uses live text in every aspect of the email, except for the signature, which means that the email will display in all environments — regardless of whether images are disabled or not! In addition, since Help Scout uses larger fonts — 15px for body copy and 18px for headers — the email is very readable on the small screen of a mobile device. And, better yet, since there are minimal links in the post and they are spread apart, the text links are touch-friendly!

Help Scout definitely designed this email with optimization for all inboxes in mind. The message contains pertinent information and they wanted to make sure that their customers were able to read the email regardless of which environment they were reading in (mobile or desktop) and regardless of whether images were enabled or not.

A Little Branding Wouldn’t Have Hurt

While the content and tone of the email are great, I think Help Scout could have evoked a little personality by branding the email a bit better — even if they just added their logo towards the top. If you quickly glance at the email, you can’t tell who the email is from at all. A little bit of branding could have made a big difference!

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