Every customer service email is an opportunity to build stronger relationships.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated for accuracy and freshness. The original version first appeared on the Groove blog on September 26th, 2017
Any given company probably sends hundreds of customer service emails daily, and it can be easy to lose sight of just how important every single one of them is.
But for any given customer, it might be the only interaction with your business that they’ll have that day.
That lone interaction can completely (re)shape the way they feel 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. Today, we’re going to discuss ten tips to help you deliver better support to your customers with every email you send.
Customer Service Email Tip 1: Personalize Your Interactions
“Personal service” is the “synergy” of the customer support world—a buzzword used way too often without thinking about what it really means.
Personal service is about making the customer feel like they’re doing business with a human, not a company.
Why is this important?
Because when customers feel like they’re getting personal service, they become better customers.
A few years ago, a survey by Genesys asked more than 9,000 consumers about what mattered to them most when it came to doing business with companies.
40% of them said “better human service”.
The easiest way to start out with building a more personal relationship through your customer service emails is something very simple, yet immensely powerful—using names (theirs and yours).
Dale Carnegie, author of the legendary “How To Win Friends And Influence People” (a book that every single customer support rep should be able to quote in their sleep), said:
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.
Don’t forget to do the same for yourself, too. A customer service email isn’t a transaction; it’s a conversation between two human beings.
Who would you rather get an email from, “Mike” or “The Support Team”?
Besides using your own name, it’s also important to put a face to it.
One of my favorite support email signatures comes from Teamweek:
It’s a much nicer signature than just “X support team” with no face or name attached, no? Brownie points for the adorable puppy.
By introducing yourself to the customer and using your name as well as showing your face, you make things personal and begin to frame the interaction as one between people, versus one between a customer and a nameless, faceless business.
Customer Service Email Tip 2: Say “Thank You”
You may not think of it this way, but a customer who provides constructive feedback—or even flat out complains about something— 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.
Simply saying “thank you” to a customer can be a powerful way to strengthen your relationship with them.
Receiving gratitude doesn’t just change the way we think and feel; it changes the way we behave for the better.
Did they give you feedback? Say “thank you”. Did they report a bug? Say “thank you”. Did they complain about something? Say “thank you”.
Make sure your customer knows how much you appreciate their email, no matter what the tone or contents of it are.
Customer Service Email Tip 3: Define Your Support Style
As long as you eventually end up solving the issue, style doesn’t really matter in customer service emails, right? Wrong.
The whole point of customer support is to successfully communicate information that allows either you or your customer to solve a problem.
Bad writing, formatting and even using the wrong tone make that communication hard to understand.
There are several elements that you should consider and go over with your whole team to make sure your customer support style is what you want it to be, including:
- Voice and tone
- Language and structure
We’ve written a whole separate post about defining your customer support style that you can check out for detailed reference.
Agreeing on certain rules, reference points and values in your customer support process—basically, putting together a simple customer service style guide—will help everyone doing support in your company be faster and more efficient at it.
Customer Service Email Tip 4: Think About How You Deliver News
Should you deliver 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…
Next time you need to deliver both good and bad news to a customer, think about the context; the order you choose matters.
Customer Service Email Tip 5: Use Canned Replies
While speed isn’t the most important thing in customer service, it does matter.
There are a lot of interactions that start repeating themselves, and having a quick way to get back to the people with common issues can save your support reps tons of time—we’re talking about automation.
Most people assume that customer service automation is about replacing, or minimizing, human-to-human interaction. That’s not the goal of support automation at all.
As long as you still put effort into making your common replies personal, they can be a huge time saver, whether it’s a feature of your help desk software or using a simple text expander tool.
Automating little things is one of the 5 things to do to improve your customer support in under 10 minutes, and will save you tons of time and money in the long run—while still keeping your customer service emails personal and interactive.
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Customer Service Email Tip 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 practice writing your own instructions in the same format to make life easier for your customers.
Customer Service Email Tip 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.
In addition to saving you time, being able to fix their own issues without having to go back and forth with a customer support agent will give your customers a sense of accomplishment.
Customer Service Email Tip 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 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.”
Customer Service Email Tip 9: Use Positive Language
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”:
Just by removing a few negative words or phrases from our customer interactions, we can completely change the way what we say is perceived.
Use the power of positive words in customer service to make your customers have better experiences, both in the moment and over the long-term course of your relationship with them.
Customer Service Email Tip 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:
- Make sure that we proactively keep the customer posted as often as possible (at least once per day).
- 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.
What are the tips you have for making sure every single one of your support emails provides value and helps create a better relationship with your customer? Let us know in the comments!
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