Patrick McKenzie, or as he is better known around the web, patio11 runs a few successful web apps, and is known for giving great advice to startup founders. One of his apps is called Appointment Reminder. Appointment Reminder is sold to appointment-based businesses (any business where humans make appointments and need to show up at a particular time) both large and small. Customers of Appointment Reminder want to maximize the revenue of their businesses through smart scheduling and reminders to make sure that clients don’t forget about their appointments/show up on time.

Patrick runs a business that helps his customers to retain more business, so how does he retain his own customers?

Here’s how. According to Patrick, he sends this email up to three times when cards have billing issues.

Subject: Appointment Reminder Subscription Couldn't Be Renewed


Thanks for using Appointment Reminder. We attempted to bill your credit card recently for your Appointment
Reminder subscription, but the charge was declined. This might have happened because the card you have on file
with us has expired. We will retry the card in a day, but are just giving you a heads up in case you need to
update it in our billing system.

If your card is expired or otherwise unusable, you should update our billing system with your current card
to avoid an interruption in service for your clients. You can do so here:


Date we attempted billing: $BILLING_DATE
Amount billed: $BILLING_AMOUNT

We understand that these sort of things occasionally happen, so we told the computer to extend service to make sure that your reminders go out to clients as expected. That extension lasts for approximately three days from when we attempted to bill you, through $FINAL_DATE_OF_GRACE_PERIOD. After that, our system will stop sending
out reminders. (Your clients will be able to interact with it as normal.)

If you're actively using Appointment Reminder and for some reason can't get your credit card updated in time,
reply to this email. We're a small business ourselves and we're happy to be accommodating.

If you need to change anything about your account or payment methods, you can do so
under Account -> See Payment Details in Appointment Reminder.



Patrick McKenzie
Appointment Reminder

P.S. We're not the bank or the phone company. We're a small business, probably pretty similar to yours. You're not
in trouble about this. Minor glitches happen. If you need help with sorting it out, drop me an email. We really
appreciate your business.

This email is amazing. I’m going to take several things from this email and put it in my own dunning emails immediately. First he starts the email off with a personal, human-sounding greeting “Hiya”, and then the customer’s name. Throughout this email, he uses very friendly language. If I got this email I’d think, “This guy really appreciates that I use his service and is super helpful and nice!” Kindness goes a long way.

Then he immediately thanks them for using Appointment Reminder, before telling them that there is a problem or asking them to update their billing info.

He tells them what the problem is, then how to update their information, with a direct link to update their billing info.

Next, he shows that he’s understanding, and says that he’s told the computer to extend their service for the next few days. (as developers, we know that the system is most likely already configured to do this, but the way that he words it is really awesome.) He also goes out of his way to not make the customer look bad to their clients, as their clients will still be able to use the system as they normally would, even if the Appointment Reminder customer doesn’t update their billing info within the grace period, even though the actual appointment reminders won’t be sent.

He also gives them an alternate way to let him know that they are having some sort of issue with getting their card updated. He says that they can just reply to the email, and to mitigate any fears of who they’ll be interacting with on the other end if they do reply, he says that they are happy to be accommodating. He’s treating them like they’re a human.

Patrick shows that a great dunning email contains a clever combination of clear communication, being personal, available and understanding, and making it as easy as possible for customers to do what you want for them to do. He supports that with application settings that don’t over-penalize customers for not updating their info in time.

If you join Patrick’s mailing list at, you’ll occasionally get advised on this and related topics, such as:

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