Everyone knows someone who has fallen victim to a phishing scam. These days, most people are rightfully cautious about clicking links in emails.

x1000 if you’re asking for payment information.

When payments fail and you want to reach out to customers via email, you need to avoid damaging trust and ruining your chances for engagement.

It’s a lot like designing a trustworthy checkout page, with one important difference: these are paying subscribers, and you already have a relationship with them. They trust you, so there really is only one rule: Don’t Be Shady.

But let’s break that down into its basic ingredients…


If your customers could expect—and/or would appreciate—a personal touch from your company, use someone from your team as the primary sender. Include their name, and use their company email address.

Adii Pienaar is the founder of Receiptful, and he sends dunning emails that come from his personal email—so you know it’s legit.

And if the personal touch is too unexpected, make sure emails are from a sender using your domain. Ex: [email protected]

“Reply-to” can still be directed to your support address, but make it quick and easy for recipients to verify who the sender is.


If the first emails you send come from a relatively unknown person on your team, up the ante with a founder/CEO check-in, or someone who has high visibility at the company.

It’s a simple thing, but the name recognition can be just what you need to prompt someone into a response.

And even if you are a small team, this can easily be hacked by creating a persona to use as an email sender. Break up the flow, and let your customer know multiple people are waiting on their prompt action.


You should be sending multiple emails, ideally finding the optimal messaging and timing for each send.

Remember to use different subject lines, unless you deliberately want multiple emails to be “threaded” by the high percentage of Gmail users. While sometimes effective as a nudge, these threaded emails are also more easily missed, particularly if the first one missed the inbox.

Messaging should also be different from one email to the next. For starters, it will sound more human if you aren’t repeating the same message over and over. And beyond this, if customers are at-risk of having their account canceled, the urgency of the messaging should increase with each recovery attempt. Let your customers know when their account will, sadly, be shut down, and what the consequences of that will be.


There’s no need to go overboard with a image-heavy layout. However, subtle branding elements will help your customers trust the content of your email.

Including a small logo and/or letterhead, and link colors that match your brand will be enough.

That said, send at least one of your emails with all HTML removed. Just in case an aggressive filter has been catching your other contact attempts.


One of the worst things you can put in your dunning emails is a link to a website that’s not your own.

It’s a major red flag for those on the lookout for phishing emails.

It’s also a good idea to not require your customers to login in order to update their payment info. People tapping a link on their phones are less likely to have a password handy, or the desire to navigate input fields with their fingers. Include a unique and secure identifier in the linked URL, and don’t make your customers think.


You should really always be using SSL, but especially on any pages that accept sensitive information from customers.

Make sure that you include the “https://” version of the link in your emails, so customers know they are being taken to a secure page for updating their card.

Secure URLs are also less likely to be flagged as suspicious, because spammers often don’t have time to invest in SSL.


Your customer is trying to update payment information and give you money. The only brand they should come in contact with is yours.

It doesn’t matter to them who your dunning process is “powered by.”

Worse, it looks cheap to use a non-white-label process. And “cheap” and “secure” rarely go hand in hand.

Attend to these details, and build a great experience for your customers who need help paying you!

Ken Johnson

Author Ken Johnson

Riding the first wave of subscription ecommerce, Ken co-founded Manpacks.com in 2009. He now resides in San Diego, dedicated to client success at Churn Buster and learning how to lose at tennis and poker.

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