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10 Tips for Sending Better Customer Service Emails

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Every support email is an opportunity to build a better relationship with your customer. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Working in support, it can be easy to lose sight of just how important every single email is.

Any particular email that we send to a customer is just one of hundreds that we might be sending that day.

But to that customer, it might be the only interaction with our business that they’ll have that day.

That lone interaction can completely shape (or reshape) the way a customer feels about doing business with you.

If they don’t feel like they got good service, it’ll damage their view of your business.

If they come away delighted, you’re one step closer to having a committed customer for life.

Doing customer service emails right is worth the effort. Below, you’ll find ten tips to help you make the best impression, and deliver better support to your customers:

1) Use Your Customer’s Name

A lot of us are used to firing off quick email replies that jump right into the “facts” of what we want to say.

When it comes to customer service, that’s not enough.

Starting each email by addressing your customer by name doesn’t just make you sound more respectful or polite; it actually makes the customer happy to hear it:

2) Introduce Yourself

A customer service email isn’t a transaction; it’s a conversation.

By introducing yourself to the customer, you make things personal and begin to frame the interaction as one between people, versus one between a customer and a business.

3) Thank Them for Their Gift

You may not think of it this way, but a customer who complains is giving you a very valuable gift.

A survey by Lee Resources International found that in the average medium-sized business, for every customer who complains, there are 26 who never say a word… they simply leave.

Every customer who complains is giving you an opportunity to fix something that can potentially help you retain 26 other customers.

That’s a big gift.

Make sure your customer knows how much you appreciate their email.

4) Should You Deliver the Good or Bad News First?

It depends. But it does make a difference.

Researchers at UC-Riverside tested the order in which they delivered news to subjects, and gauged their responses and behavior.

What they found was interesting:

People who were given the bad news first were more likely to feel better about what they were told, while people who were given the bad news last were more motivated to act on the news.

That means that the right way to deliver good and bad news depends on the context.

In customer service, we generally want our customers to be happier, so it’s a good idea to lead with the bad news.

For example, if you’re delivering bad news that a feature they requested won’t be built, lead with that:

I’m really sorry that we won’t be able to get this on our product roadmap anytime soon. The good news is that there is a workaround. Here’s how you do it…

But if you need to persuade the customer to act, then start with the good news.

Great news! That feature already exists. To access it, just upgrade to the Pro plan by clicking here…

5) Use Canned Replies Correctly

Common replies can be a huge time saver, whether it’s a feature of your help desk software or you’re using a simple text expander tool.

But be careful about how you use them, and take the time to make them personal:

We find common replies super helpful when we’re providing detailed instructions. It saves a lot of time to not type out complicated or lengthy troubleshooting steps for each new message. We still make it a point to customize our responses and add our personal flair, as well as make the messages specific to the customer’s needs. We like to have each person write their own common replies, even if the steps are the same their wording is unique to them.

Lo Marino, Baydin (makers of Boomerang)

6) Use the ELI5 Technique

Even if they seem like second nature to you, the complex or technical concepts behind your product can be really confusing to customers.

When you need to explain a complex idea or instruction, don’t write it as if you were sharing it with a coworker.

Instead, use the ELI5 technique.

On the Explain It Like I’m Five subreddit, experts distill complex topics and explain them as if the reader were five years old.

As an example, see how one user explains the difference between email, Google, AOL, a website, and web browsers:

If someone didn’t understand what those things were, this would be a perfect, clear rundown that would instantly and easily make sense.

Spend some time reading the ELI5 subreddit, and practicing writing your own instructions in the same format to make life easier for your customers.

7) Link to Longer Instructions

Having to scroll through long emails is annoying and tedious.

And because customer loyalty is built by reducing customer effort, we want to avoid anything annoying and tedious.

Having a knowledge base with articles that you can link to is really helpful, as it can save your customers the hassle of trying to navigate a long email.

As a rule of thumb, if your instructions contain more than one image or three steps, link to them rather than including them in the email.

8) Casual vs. Formal Tone

There’s long been a debate in customer service circles about whether the right tone for customer service is formal or casual.

And while the answer, as is frustratingly true with many things, is that it depends, there is some research here.

A recent survey of 2,000+ online customers found that 65% of them — across all ages and genders — prefer a casual tone in customer support.

But there’s a twist: that preference shifts significantly when customers are being denied a request.

78% of respondents said that an overly casual tone (like using slang or emoticons) has a negative impact on their experience when the agent is denying a request.

So while a casual tone is fine (even emoticons are generally okay), be careful not to be too casual when you’re saying “no.”

9) Replace Negative Words With Positive Ones

Using positive language can be incredibly powerful in changing the way your customers read your support emails.

But how do you do that?

It’s actually pretty simple: start by spotting negative words in your emails, and replacing them with positive ones.

When Carolyn Kopprasch, Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer, removed the word “actually” from her vocabulary, her emails began to sound a lot more positive.

Notice the difference?

The same thing happened when she dropped “but”:

10) Promise a Result

If a customer sends an email “checking in” on the status of their support request, we consider that a failure on our part.

In testing at Groove, we’ve found that customers who proactively reach out to us report satisfaction scores, on average, about 10% lower than customers who don’t inquire.

The two things that we do to avoid check-ins are:

  1. Make sure that we proactively keep the customer posted as often as possible (at least once per day).
  2. Let the customer know exactly when they should expect to hear from us. While you can’t always promise a solution by a given time, you can always promise an update. Delivering on that promise doesn’t just keep the customer informed about the status of their request, but it’s another opportunity to build trust.

Sending Better Customer Support Emails Is Worth It

While an email interaction isn’t the same as a face-to-face conversation, you can make it a deeply personal experience that leaves your customer happy and excited to be doing business with you.

That personal touch is made in those little details: things like using the customer’s name (and your own), knowing the right phrases, and always saying thank you.

Each email might be a small effort, but it’s a big opportunity to build a better relationship with your customer.

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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