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5 Ways You Can Improve Customer Service with Better Emails

Posted by Mary Bradbury Jones on February 17, 2016

how to improve customer service with emailAside from offering quality products and services, your business undoubtedly relies heavily on customer service. Ensuring customer satisfaction through the sales process is one thing, but as you already know, customer service can't end there. You need to ensure that all the communication channels provide stellar customer service. Email may not seem like the “go-to” customer service option, especially in the face of Live Chat assistance options. However, it remains a primary form of customer service communication — in point of fact, 72% of adults prefer to interact with brands and retailers through email.

In today's post, we'll be discussing five ways you can improve customer service with better emails.

1. Always Follow Up When a Customer Reaches Out

This may seem obvious, but it's also the first step of how email can improve customer service effectively. This should be as true at the beginning of the process as it is at the end; it's important for the customer to know that their complaint matters and that it's going to be addressed. It's equally important to follow up with the customer after their service ticket is closed in order to ensure they're satisfied with the results. (We'll address this further in a moment.)

It may be tempting to put off following up at the beginning of the customer service process if you don't have a response to their query. However, a customer should never feel the need to check in on how their problem is being resolved. In fact, you want the customer to be up to date on the status of their service ticket. Hearing little or nothing tends to lead only to customer frustration. This should start with following up as soon as a customer reaches out — let them know how long it will be before they will hear back from your staff with an update. Bear in mind, 24 hours is a standard best practice, but don't say that unless it is true. Be accurate!

2. Never Leave Emails Unanswered

This is a natural outflow of our first point. There is, generally speaking, no excuse for a customer email to go unanswered. If necessary, set up an auto-response email that lets the customer know that their query has been received and will be responded to. Personal contact is always preferred, of course, but it's not always possible, so even if your normal process involves a relatively immediate personal answer, have the auto-response set up as a backup.

It's also worth noting that an initial responses ought to be received in less than an hour. This amount of time may continue to shrink, given the emphasis on immediacy seen in the current expression of the Zero Moment of Truth. Customers don't want to wait to find what they need, and if you can't respond to their issue, you might end up losing them.

Furthermore, your response (or lack thereof) can play a big part in your business' reputation. You must remember that customers are doing more and more of their own research about brands and retailers, and part of that research is social sharing and reviews. Customers are likely to air their grievances online, where potential customers are likely to run into them.


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3. Use Appropriate Etiquette

This extends from the basics (e.g., grammar) to more complicated aspects of etiquette. At minimum, all emails coming out of your business, but especially those dealing with customer service requests, should utilize proper grammar, spelling, and professional terminology, which is to say, it doesn't use slang. How you conduct customer service is a reflection of your business as a whole, so professionalism is key.

However, a survey conducted by email marketing software review company, Software Advice, noted that 65% of customers prefer a casual tone when interacting with customer service. That's true across generations and income levels. Perhaps this is because formal tones can come across as condescending, especially in text. However, nearly 80% of customers in that same study did not want a casual tone when receiving bad news. It comes across as flippant, and can easily give the wrong impression. Interestingly, another study showed that customers prefer receiving bad news first, or perhaps it's more accurate to say that receiving the good news last left them with a positive impression of the situation and the brand.

Customers also prefer brief emails that get to the point quickly. Make sure the subject line is compelling when you can, and keep the pertinent information at the beginning of the email. Bear in mind that 1 in 5 Millennials access the internet exclusively through their mobile phone and apps, and 53% of all emails are opened via mobile phone apps. They're unlikely to read through a long email for the information they need.

As a final note on etiquette, if your business utilizes email templates, ensure that employees review emails sent out for customer service to ensure they're correct not only for style and grammar, but to ensure it applies to the customer's situation, and answers their question completely and clearly. If a procedure needs to be followed, that will also need to be checked for completeness and clarity.

4. Take Advantage of Emails as a Way to Survey Customer Experience

An influential research firm noted that, with regard to the average, mid-sized business, one customer complaint could represent 26 customers who felt the same way but simply left, instead of doing anything. By utilizing customer service emails to take customer temperatures, you have a way to fix problems and can, essentially, prevent the loss of those 26. Also, since the customer is already engaged via email, you can use it to gather data about your customer service process. This should be utilized as a part of your quality control efforts to improve the methods utilized as a part of reacting to problems and other issues.

5. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

Personalization is very nearly the new golden rule of marketing, sales, and customer service. Personalization is a clear indicator to a customer that someone is paying attention to not only their query, but to them as people. It engenders a positive connection to your brand even with something as small as utilizing their name to begin the email. Conversely, stock responses, especially if they read as unrelated to them and their query, can harm customer trust fairly quickly.

Now that you have a clear picture of how to improve customer service with email, you should audit your current practices to ensure they're up to par. Remember, one customer message can represent 26 other customers who haven't reached out, and just one customer can reach thousands of others through social channels. Make sure your customer's experience the best your company has to offer.


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