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A 9-Point Checklist to Make Every Customer Support Interaction Awesome

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We’ve boiled great support down into 9 easy-to-follow steps.

There’s no question about it, customer support can be chaotic.

With lots of customers sending emails of varying priorities being fielded by multiple team members, things get messy.

While the first line of defense is having a great team using a great help desk, at times, small details can still slip through the cracks.

But chaos leading to error isn’t unique to support. It can happen in just about anything, including the high-stakes world of medicine.

One of my favorite books is called The Checklist Manifesto. Written by Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon, it shares some incredible stories about how checklists—such a simple concept—save millions of lives every year in hospitals, airplanes and huge construction sites.

But the underlying lesson of the book is that checklists can be used to “bulletproof” a system of any size or stakes, including a customer service operation.

Today, I’m going to share a 9-point checklist that you can use to ensure that every customer service interaction you “ticks all the boxes” for delivering value to your customers and building long, lasting relationships that help you develop loyalty, increase retention and grow your business.

Check out each of the components below, and grab a free PDF download of the checklist at the bottom of the post.

The 9-Point Awesome Support Interaction Checklist

1) Use their 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 great 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) Use YOUR name

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 the email

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) Understand their request

I always find it so frustrating when I email a company for support (airlines and credit card companies are especially bad at this), and get a response that shows that they didn’t understand my question.

If you don’t completely understand the question, you can’t give a clear answer. So don’t try.

It’s ok to ask a customer to clarify a point; they’ll appreciate the effort that you’re putting in to help them thoroughly a lot more than they’ll appreciate an answer to the wrong question.

5) “ELI5” the solution

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.

6) Remove negative words

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”:

7) Remove Extra Words

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
Thomas Jefferson

Whatever you said, can you say it in fewer words to make your email easier to understand and less daunting to read?

8) Proofread

This might seem silly, but the number of under-proofed support emails that I’ve seen is staggering.

I’m not talking about typos, which, in the age of mobile email are far more forgiven than they used to be.

I’m talking about emails that use the wrong name, repeat the same paragraph twice, contain unfinished sentences, and more.

If an email is important, give it a quick scan before you click “send.” It’s a great habit, and not just for customer support.

9) Send!

Did you check off all of the boxes? Then you’re ready to go. Hit send!

Download your customer support checklist PDF


Every interaction with your customers is an opportunity to help your business grow. Every single one.

This checklist is designed to help you make the most of that opportunity, and I hope you find it as helpful as we have.

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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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