The Anatomy of a Customer Service Email

The Anatomy of a Customer Service Email

Customer Support

We live in the age of technology and information, where communications from across the globe can take place within a matter of seconds. Although it quickly connects us, it can also feel more isolating all at the same time. Communicating with customers via email is typically easier, and less stressful, than a voice-to-voice phone call, but it also provides a platform for customers to comfortably release more frustrations than they may typically over the phone. Despite the headaches we sometimes get reading an email from an angry customer, we have to remember that every customer service email is an opportunity to build a stronger relationship. Email and Live Chat (especially Social Media) supersede phone calls today, so let’s dissect the anatomy of what written responses should look like, even for the most upset of customers.


1. Greet

It’s important to always address the customer by their name (or social media handle if replying on Instagram or Twitter). It makes the first connection—that this response is personal to them and their needs.

Example:

  • Good morning, [Customer Name]!
  • Hello, [Customer Name]!
  • Hi, [Customer Name]!

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” —Dale Carnegie

 

2. Thank the Customer

It’s good to thank them for their email, regardless of the context. Sounds odd—but it makes the customer feel appreciated. In the case of the extremely frustrated or angry email, it can shift the tone and tension to positive. Gratitude should always be given to a customer regardless of the matter at hand.

Example:

  • Thank you for reaching out.
  • We/I appreciate you bringing this to our attention.

**In the event a customer has replied thanking you for what you did to help them (it happens often), or they had their AH-HA! moment, simply reply with…

  • [Customer Name], / You are most welcome! Happy to help. {emoji}
  • [Customer Name], / We are happy to help! Please don’t hesitate to reach us if you have any other questions or concerns.

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” —Jacques Maritain

 

3. Congratulate or Empathize

We all have our own shit in life to swallow—you never know what the customer may be dealing with in life (i.e. relative passing, health issues, laid-off at work, recent divorce, car accident etc). Just because our communication is written does not mean we omit character. Simple: be kind and understanding—care—celebrate their victories.

Example:

  • We’re/I’m so happy to hear you like it!
  • I sincerely apologize. I can certainly see how that would  be frustrating.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” —Leo F. Buscaglia

 

4. Summarize their Question/Situation

This ensures that you and the customer are on the same page before moving on to step 5. It also solidifies to the customer that they’ve been heard and understood. At the end of the day, an upset customer just wants to be heard.

Example:

  • I’m sorry to hear you’d like to refund your subscription with us. […]
  • I can certainly help you with placing an order through your account. […]
  • Before I look into your order history, could you please provide me with…

“Everyone hears only what he understands.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

5. Resolution + Call-To-Action (CTA)

Completing this step will entirely depend on policy and standard of operations for your company or business. Whether it’s giving them information they’re missing or not understanding, explaining or guiding them through a process, or even cancelling a subscription or account, here are a few examples of how you can successfully do this:

**Note: Please speak to your direct supervisor, team leader or trainer for any specifics on how to successfully complete this step (especially if you aren’t sure).

  • Screenshots (your computer’s Snipping Tool app, or Jing is a great free, and easy tool to use for this!)
  • Step-by-step instructions or details.
  • Example(s)
  • Links

Don’t be afraid to structure the details so that they’re easy on the eyes. Incorporate some bullet points, bold or even highlight some very important information. Regardless, it’s important to make this step simple, easy on the eyes, and comprehensive. Omit as much confusion as possible—this entirely depends on how awesome you are at explaining tricky scenarios in your company. This step will also take you the most time to write, and that’s okay! It’s better to take longer to be thorough and correct, than hurry and be misleading or incorrect.

“Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe[…]”
—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

 

6. Conclude

Finish your email with a simple goodbye and your name. They want to know with whom they’ve heard from! This step will also entirely depend on the matter of the email.

Example:

  • Appreciate your patience, / [Your Name]
  • Have a great weekend! / [Your Name]
  • Kindest regards, / [Your Name]
  • Thank you! / [Your Name]

“Start strong, stay strong, and finish strong by remembering why you started in the first place.” —Ralph Marston


To bring it around full circle, here’s an example of everything put together—a real email recently sent to a customer who was concerned about awards they’d received that were not showing up correctly on their account. This inhibited them from being able to redeem their awards for a free gift. It was our technical error, and this was my response:

Good morning, Theresa!

Thank you for reaching out. I’ve looked at your account and you’re correct, your account should be reflecting three awarded points yet is only showing two. We are currently encountering technical difficulties regarding points awarded in 2016. I apologize for this inconvenience! We’re working diligently to fix the error. It should be resolved and reflect correctly on your account within the next 24-48 hours. Once this has been resolved, you can most definitely expect an update from us.

If you’d like to us to complete an order for you at this time, we’d be happy to do so. Please don’t hesitate to reply if you have any other questions or concerns.

Appreciate your patience,
Shayne

One of the most important things to remember when writing a customer service email, or responding to customers via Live Chat or on social media is to not sound scripted or like a robot. With all the technology that’s supposed to bring the world together, it can surely make one feel more isolated and less appreciated. Be real. Let your personality shine through your writing. A customer wants to know you’re a real person. Take pride in your work and how you respond.

To bring this to a close: love what you do! If you aren’t loving what you do (with the good and the ugly), it’s okay to recognize that it’s time to move on to something different. That’s what life is all about, exploring opportunities and creating new adventures. If you aren’t feeling fulfilled in your contribution, you are doing yourself and others a great disservice.

Thank you for taking time to read this,

Shayne Montalvo
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