E-mails may not be the fastest way of communication with your customers, but that does not mean they are less effective than other communication channels. Your response can pleasantly surprise or disappoint. It can resolve issues or be a complete waste of time. The difference between the former and the latter depends on whether you can put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
“Who reads e-mails nowadays?” you may be thinking. Well, every 4th person would click to open and read your e-mail if it was a desperate marketing attempt. In your case, the e-mail would be much expected, with hopes that it brings a much-desired resolution. You have an incredible opportunity to build your relationship with your customer, so why compose an e-mail that would get deleted like useless spam or junk? Your customer will pay attention! Do you think you are providing the best customer service experience for your customers via e-mail? Check if you are an expert because experts do the following:
- 1. Appreciate!
- 2. Apologies in order
- 3. Do you structure smartly?
- 4. Do the recap
- 5. Keep it nice and positive
- 6. Be the macro pro
- 7. Bull’s eye response precision
- 8. Conciseness wows
- 9. Customer effort to the zero
- 10. Spelling errors?
- 11. Get personal!
- 12. Go above and beyond!
- 13. Don’t dodge that responsibility
- 14. End on a note of reassurance
- 15. Sign off like a boss
Begin your e-mail with a humble ‘thank you.’ Why? Your customers are doing you a favor by outlining their concerns and taking the time to complain. You may not realize it, but they are helping you fix any possible existing issues with your products or services, which in turn helps you to retain other customers who may complain in the future. Plus, gratitude boosts positive energy, which is essential when your customers naturally set a negative tone in their complaint letters.
Here are some examples, but personalization has no limits:
• Thank you for reaching out and providing your feedback!
• I highly appreciate you taking the time to give us your opinion about our product/service.
• We here at [company] have attentively noted the invaluable information you provided. Wow, thank you so much!
2. Apologies in order
Saying sorry does not make you guilty. If the issue is indeed your company’s fault, then it is, of course, better to admit so and apologize accordingly. Otherwise, always try to see the situation from the customers’ perspective and identify with them. You can say that you are sorry to hear about the inconvenience they encountered. Apologies show the customer you are human, you can relate, and you understand the unpleasantness of the situation.
Mind not making your apology sarcastic. I have seen some horrid apologies in the past.
Do not write the following at any cost:
• I am sorry that you did not read the Terms & Conditions that were difficult to miss.
• I apologize for this confusion that still exists because you do not understand our services.
• Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your huge, exasperating e-mail.
3. Do you structure smartly?
Remember that human beings have a short attention span. If we don’t get what we want, we run out of patience quickly. Imagine being your customer and having to read three paragraphs of information about your product or service at the start of your e-mail before getting to any solid answers to the posed questions. The structure of your email should be organized and effective. The provision of the resolution to the problem outlined should come first, along with any direct answers to questions asked. You should also space out paragraphs of text to make the email visually harmonious and balanced.
I trained people in the past who may have never heard of the Space or the Enter buttons on a computer keyboard before meeting me. Yet I have also received e-mails from customer service representatives that were illegible walls of text. The structure can significantly affect how fast you resolve the customer’s issue. The easier it is to understand you, the better.
4. Do the recap
Sometimes, it is a good idea to outline the concerns brought to your attention, or the questions asked, especially if the customer was unclear. This helps you assure him that you are on the same page. If you understood the customer incorrectly, he will be able to correct you in his next e-mail. When you see concerns or questions in a numerated order, address them in the same order. That would be the customer’s proposed response format and the order in which he prefers to see the answers.
Be watchful and use your common sense. Certain things the customer writes should not be mirrored as a recap. For instance, this would not be too good of an idea:
“As far as I understood Steven, you are having difficulties installing our new software on your computer, you hate our company for ruining your life and you will let all of your friends on Facebook know that we are incompetent.”
5. Keep it nice and positive
Even the worst news can be brought to attention in a soft, affirmative way – on a ‘golden platter.’ Whatever you write to your customer, always write positively. Don’t use negative words because they may ruin the mood of your message. Keep your tone uplifting and hopeful. If you do have any bad news, mention them first and end with the good news. This way, whatever the customer receives after the bad news will be more likely to make him feel better, helping you end the e-mail on a positive note. In addition, a customer is more likely to act on the bad news if you give it to him last.
6. Be the macro pro
Face it; canned responses can be a great evil. Your reputation is on the line if your customer realizes that you have just dropped a pre-written text – one-fits-all – to get their e-mail out of the way faster. There goes the trust. Of course, your customer will expect nothing less than a personal approach – to not be treated like one more from the pile. Make no mistake; templates are incredibly useful! They save you time when you have to answer the same questions from multiple customers. But be cautious. Edit them according to each customer whenever you see fit.
7. Bull’s eye response precision
Your goal is to provide your customer with a so-called First-Contact Resolution. That’s ultimate. Not only does this mean faster satisfaction for your customer, but it also means you save your own precious time. To achieve this, the accuracy of your response must be 100%. Address all raised concerns, answer all questions, and be as detailed as necessary. Don’t forget to speculate the customer’s potential questions to answer them before they even pop up.
In other words, what other questions do you think the customer could ask if he was to write you another e-mail in response? Let’s take a quick look at a simple example. Here is a customer’s first e-mail to customer service:
“Hi. I was trying to find a pricelist of your services on your website, yet I couldn’t. Perhaps I missed it. Could you please help me? Thanks.”
So, how would you approach this? Of course, the main task is to provide the customer with the pricelist of your company’s services. But what else would be proactive to provide? How about:
• Not only the link to the pricelist on your website, but the actual pricelist in your e-mail (so that the customer does not even have to click anywhere)
• The payment methods your company accepts
• Any offers you currently have (maybe something for first-time users)
• Promotion of any new services/products
• A customer service phone number (for a swift resolution in case something goes wrong during the purchase attempt)
8. Conciseness wows
Granted, any one of us can receive a lengthy e-mail from a customer with multiple concerns and questions. It is your job in customer service, however, to be as attentive as possible to such e-mails and to read them thoroughly. This is what you get paid to do. The customer, on the other hand, is not anyhow obligated to study an e-mail that looks like the Terms & Conditions section on your website. Thus, your task is to be as concise with your response as possible to make the best of our human attention span. If you have to provide a lot of information about a particular feature or some instructions, then the best thing to do would be to link up to an extensive knowledge base or help center article.
Remember, resolving the customer’s issues is always the priority. Naturally, if you have a customer with multiple issues and concerns that all need cautious addressing, do not be concise as if it was a holy commandment. In such cases, mind rule number 3 above – provide the resolutions and answers first. No matter what, trying to be concise can never be an excuse for some concerns not being addressed. Simply put, if it must be lengthy, you can’t escape it.
9. Customer effort to the zero
The easier life is, the happier the human being. If to resolve an issue, your customer needs to follow a long list of complicated instructions or steps, his experience will not be so pleasant. Always think of how you can accommodate your customer better. For instance, for an online business, instead of explaining where a section is on your website, link up to it so all the customer must do is click instead of search. For a brick-and-mortar business, instead of making your customer call for you and wait, be readily available to assist. The less customer effort made, the more pleasant the experience will be.
10. Spelling errors?
Grammar and punctuation are the basics. While many of your customers may not care much if you make a spelling error, others will be particularly picky and may judge you and your company based on it. It is easy to avoid, so pay extra attention. You want to portray yourself and the company you work for as professionally as possible. When it comes to e-mail and live chat support, there are some useful software solutions, such as Grammarly, that can help you make sure you don’t make any mistakes.
In my experience, I have seen some terrible accidental grammar and punctuation mistakes, but also, the free usage of slang. Just imagine, if after contacting customer service, you received a response like this:
“hey ther adam hows it goin dude, yeah we been havin some prblems here, but tha downtime shud be fix any moment now, so np man – you can just chill. peace”
Would you feel safe spending your money with a company whose customer service responds like a teenager on drugs? I don’t think so. I know I wouldn’t.
11. Get personal!
Use names, seriously! Your customer’s name is not customer, sir, or bigman96. Your name is also not company representative, operator number 13, or The Best Bagel Support Team. A business with no face is not relevant, as people cannot make a connection with it. Always make things personal by addressing your customers by their first names, when possible, of course. You have your personality, so use it! Customers want to see the real you, especially when you are representing a business. They can easily smell fake too, and nobody likes that. How can they be sure that the product or service is trustworthy when communicating with a fake person? You drive the business.
12. Go above and beyond!
We all have expectations. Most of the customers you deal with will have some pretty solid ones after they submit their complaints, and many times you can predict them. No matter what business your company is in, it will thrive if you reach beyond customer expectations. Pleasant surprises are the foundation of an incredible reputation. Where possible, do that extra great deed. By giving, you will only receive more, and you may receive tenfold!
While this may not be the easiest to do via a simple e-mail, it is still possible. After you have perfected your e-mail and answered all of the customer’s questions and concerns, think about what else you can do to add that cherry on top of the cake before hitting Send. For example, I once specified that I will send a complimentary gift to my customer with his late order. Of course, the customer was pleasantly surprised, and the company at the time was able to retain him despite the long delivery delay. The possibilities are endless and depend on the company you work in, but there is always something you can do. Here is an amazing post with 7 examples of top-grade customer service via e-mail. My favorite is number 2, yours?
13. Don’t dodge that responsibility
How much you care for your customer will be perceivable; make no mistake here. Customers are extra sensitive during times of trouble. If you are trying to avert your duties, your customer will understand it immediately. Therefore, portray the highest level of responsibility at all times. If a particular issue is highly complicated and requires extra attention, give your customer the option of resolving it even faster – via phone. Provide a telephone number the customer can reach you at, and indicate when you are available. Alternatively, propose a phone call to the customer directly, asking him for a convenient time to accept your call and a confirmation of their phone number.
I have seen e-mail threads of over 150 e-mails back and forth. One such email thread had been about a single issue, stretching over multiple months and frustrating the customer involved beyond imagination. That poor customer stood alone against nearly a dozen inattentive customer service agents who played ping pong with his brain. Unfortunately, while the customer initiated his customer service adventure on a positive note, he ended it cursing the company. Why? All because a single person failed to assume responsibility, and the rest followed that person’s path. An issue that could have been resolved with a couple of 15-minute phone calls lasted for an eternity of e-mails.
14. End on a note of reassurance
The customer should finish reading your e-mail on a note of trust and composure – you will take care of the issue for him, and there is nothing he should worry about. Even if you drop two sentences expressing reassurance, they will do magic. Portray your appreciation for their business, let them know that everything will be alright, and if they do have further questions, they can contact you any time. The customer must know you are always reachable, happy, and willing to help them.
Here is a simple example, taken from my writings from way back in the day:
“I do hope that I managed to shed some light on the matter and answer all of your questions. Nevertheless, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at any time. It would be my pleasure to help you again. In our company, we keep customer satisfaction at the top of our priority list.”
15. Sign off like a boss
Here are the most professional sign-off lines:
• Kind regards
• Best regards
Next comes who you are (your actual name – personalization, remember?), what position you hold in the company, and the name of your company. You may be a Customer Account Manager, a Customer Success Manager, a Customer Service Representative, a Sales or Risk Manager, or the Director of Customer Service. Your customer needs to know who is taking care of them. If you have a phone number with a direct extension to you, drop that in too! It only boosts your accountability.
Time is money. By following the suggestions above, your customers will be pleasantly surprised by your e-mail support. E-mail is not dying off any time soon, despite the rise of all the new customer service communication channels nowadays. Many customers prefer it to calling in or chatting with you online. Your approach in customer service e-mails can be personalized even further, depending on the business field of your company. It is a challenge, but if you can make something that lacks human touch more personal, you may be the Master of Communication. Do you think you have what it takes? Or do you need help in training to become one?
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