Write awesome customer service emails: Rules and templates
By Harsh Vardhan
It’s no secret how your team writes customer service emails affects how customers perceive your brand in a big way. But does every customer service rep follows etiquettes before they send out an email to a customer?
Owing to a large number of emails reps send every day, it is very easy to lose sight of the importance of every single one of them. That is not a good thing when you're trying to foster a customer-centric culture.
You’d want your team to remember — that one email might be the only interaction the customer has with your business — you cannot afford to lose this opportunity to delight customers.
In this post, I will take you through a few good-to-know rules of writing customer service emails, along with templates you can use:
Leave out the robotics (be more human)
A few years ago, Genesys ran an interesting survey to see what matters the most to customers when they receive customer service emails — an astonishing 40 percent of them said human customer service.
First things you’d want to do — write like a human being — I know this is redundant advice but we are somehow programmed to make even the simplest of things complex in emails.
For example, you meet an old friend after years and they ask what you do. You tell them that you run a company which makes this product and you’re generally doing good in life. You lay it out for them as simply as you can.
Now, what if the same friend asked you that question via email. You will instantly start bragging about the certifications and awards your company has bagged. I am sure you will promptly hyperlink everything to a press release or a blog post.
The moment we get to writing emails, our language becomes formal. We make things complex. We start using jargons.
The same applies when we write customer service emails. We somehow end up sending emails that look like they came from robots:
We just received your inquiry. Your reference number is XYZ632. Please quote it for future correspondences.
We will get back to you with more information as soon as possible.
The Support team
In customer service emails, you’d want to sound personal, friendly, and natural — just how you would talk to that person if they were standing right there.
You’d also want to empathize first, as opposed to solving problems right away.
Remember: the problem was not supposed to crop up in the first place and you have wasted the customer’s time — apologize and tell them you feel their pain.
A few more things you’d want to keep in mind:
Use that person’s first name — they will like you more.
Use your name — they will believe you more.
An emoji every now and then makes you look more expressive :-)
Here’s a better version of the same email:
Problem-solving first, resources later
I agree a lot of customer problems can be solved without human assistance. But what do you do when someone has come to you with a question? Is it a good idea to direct them to your help section right away? Well, it’s certainly a tricky area.
I am sure you’ve created explainer video and written a library of help-posts. I know you’d want your customers to help themselves. But they have come to you with a question, right? Are they asking where can they find documentation about the problem they have? I am sure they aren’t.
Well, in customer service, you have to give them what they want, and they’re looking for answers, not pages-that-contain-the-answer.
So basically, pointing a customer to a resource when they’re looking for an answer is rude; for example:
You can set up automations to assign emails to your team based on rules you set up. Read more to know what you can do with the feature.
Now I wouldn’t like to receive this message from a customer service rep. I am going to get offended. It is rude, borderline arrogant I’d say.
I’d say the right way to do this is: answer their question in detail first and then subtly add the resource link at the end of the response. For example:
Do not leave room for confusion
The most common phrase I see in customer service emails is “I will get back to you as soon as I can.” This is vague, to say the least. The customer is anxious, and you are not helping them at all.
In customer service, every message you send should inspire confidence. You want the customer to know that they are in safe hands. You want to tell them you do have a solution.
When you say ‘as soon as I can’, the person might start wondering whether you have a solution to their problem.
Even if you solve their problem later, those hours of ‘wondering what’ll happen’ will leave your customer with a bad taste.
In customer service emails, you’d want to be clear like crystals. Tell the customer exactly how much time you’ll take to get back to them. I’d like to clarify that I’m not talking about autoresponders — where it is okay to say ‘as soon as we can’ — you don’t want to have humans giving out vague timelines.
Tell them exactly what you’re going to do for them. Tell them how they can reach out to you again.
Something like this:
If you do not have a solution within that time frame, check in with the customer and tell them you are working on it, and by when can they expect resolution.
Avoid the imperatives (get your phrases right)
For the ones who’ve forgotten the grammar lessons, an imperative sentence is one that gives commands such as “do this, finish this, or go there.” :-)
I have come across a lot of customer service emails that sound like orders like “go to this page and do that.”
Now the problem here is that you come across as a rude person putting the customer down. I am sure nobody does it intentionally but it certainly comes across as preachy and condescending to a lot of people.
When you’re in customer service, sounding friendly is more than just good hygiene — it’s more like a mandate.
I am sure you’re wondering how in the world does one tell someone the steps to follow then.
Well, a better idea is to use conditionals such as ‘Could you’ or ‘Would you’ — when sending instructions to a customer.
BAD: Go to the Dashboard and press the gear icon on the top right.
GOOD: Could you please go to the dashboard and press the gear icon on the top right?
Notice the difference? The second sentence is certainly a more polite and friendly way of saying the same thing.
You can also start with ‘You’d want to’ — this again has a very friendly ring to it.
You’d want to go to the dashboard and press the gear icon on the top right.
Even the most subtle of shifts in phrasing can have a huge impact on how you make the customer feel.
Oh, and it’s not just the imperatives — here are a few more negative phrases you’d want toavoid in customer service emails:
You claim that..
You say that..
We cannot see how..
Using any of these leaves you with a slightly strained relationship with the customer.
Conversely, when you use positive phrases, they put the customer at ease:
If you can send us (the screenshot), we’ll be glad to finish it for you
Might we suggest that (the idea)
One option open to you is (whatever)
We can help you do (the task) if you send us (the information)
The one change when you start using positive language — the customer does not get angry even when you communicate something unpleasant.
A lot of customer service emails look like a haphazardly placed set of instructions written by a careless teenager. I am sure you’ve seen them too. Such emails, rather than helping customers, make their lives more difficult.
Before you go ahead and write an email to a customer, pause for a moment and think about how are they going to use the information.
Ask yourself a few questions:
Is there a certain sequence the customer is supposed to follow? If yes, always write the advice in that order. Use bullets or a sequence of steps.
When you send a paragraph answering their question, you’re not doing painting a very clear picture in their heads.
Is there something they’re supposed to check/do before they can start solving the problem? Make sure you tell them that before diving into the solution/steps.
It can be something as trivial as checking if they have the right browser — you’d still want to start with that.
Does the customer need to perform multiple steps (and their order does not affect the solution)? You’d want to mention the easiest step first. When you make things easy early on, they are more likely to follow your advice right away.
On the contrary, if the first thing you want them to do is complicated, there is a good chance they will postpone it for later — that’s never healthy for a product or service.
Has the customer asked more than one question? As opposed to a paragraph again, you’d want to segment your response into clear sections.
Based on the questions they’ve asked, break your reply by using bold sentences and then organize your response under them. Bold statements play the role of subheadings, making reading easy for the customer.
Check out this really well-structured customer service email:
The email looks structured and you’ve italicized the parts you want to emphasize. Reading and absorbing information becomes effortless.