How to write compelling support emails: A style guide

By Harsh Vardhan
support email style guide

Sloppy writing, bad formatting, haphazard information, difficult to understand; most support emails miss out on a huge opportunity — impressing the customer. I'm not saying they don't solve the problem. They just don't leave a great impression.  

The first thing you want to do when dealing with customers — have the right email etiquette:

  • Address customers by their name.
  • Thank them for bringing up the problem.
  • Do not put the blame on them.
  • Apologize if there's been a lapse.
  • Empathize with them.
  • Do not make vague promises.

Related post: Email etiquette essentials for customer support professionals

With good email etiquette, the value of your brand soars.

Once your team has the right customer service mindset, you'd want to train them to communicate information in an effective manner.

How to write compelling support emails

In customer service, clear communication means you solve problems quickly. Unclear communication means extra time spent, unhappy customers, and a demotivated support team.

Make your support emails clearer and friendlier; read on below:

Be more human

A Genesys survey asked 9000 consumers about what mattered the most when doing business with companies — 40% of them said better human service.  

Dale Carnegie, the author of ‘How to win friends and influence people’, once said: “a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

It’s ironic how everyone keeps talking about personalization in support emails but still end up sending robotic replies. 

I’m talking about emails from ‘the support team’ which start by addressing you ‘dear valued customer’, or just a 'Hi!'.

bad support emails

In support emails, you want to sound friendly, natural, and personal. Use your customer’s name — they will like you more. Use your name — the interaction becomes more personal.

Feel free to use emojis in support emails. They make you look expressive. They make you look far less formal. They put the customers at ease.

Besides that, go a step ahead and put your picture in the signature. It is a great way to establish build trust with your users. It makes them feel they are talking to a human and not a customer service bot. 

Write positively

In customer service, it is a must that you use positive language. It comes across as constructive, as opposed to abrasive or confrontational.

Here's how a bad response looks: You can’t generate a report unless you’re an admin.

You want to say the same thing in a more positive tone: You can generate a report only when you’re an admin.  

The first response says what cannot be done. It comes across as a subtle blame. It sounds bureaucratic.

The second response communicates what can be done. It sounds helpful and encouraging.

Avoid negative phrases such as:

  • You claim that..
  • You say that..
  • We cannot see how..
  • You should..
  • You must..

Related post: Phrases you should never use in an email

Positive phrases will 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)

Even when you’re conveying something you cannot do for a customer, the impact can be softened by using positive language.

Break the complexity

Most email replies from customer service teams look like instructions manuals put together by a careless teenager.

When you send a bunch of unorganized information to your customer, you’re only making their life difficult.

Take a minute and think how will the customer use the information you’re sending their way.

Is there a sequence of steps they’re supposed to follow? If yes, write the advice in that order.

Is there something they absolutely have to do before they can start solving the problem? Make sure that is the first thing you tell them.

Here’s a great support email:

support email example

Interesting fact: P.S. is the most consistently read part of every email. Over 90 percent of your customers read P.S. before the message. It is the first paragraph, not the last.

It is a good idea to also keep the complexity of the steps in mind. If there are multiple ways to start solving a problem, always tell them the sequence that involves the easier steps first.

Make the start easy and there is a good chance the customer will follow your advice.

Make reading easy

Most customer emails you receive will have more than one question. When you send a paragraph answering all their questions, you’re not painting a very clear picture in their heads.

It is a good idea to segment your responses into parts. Break the replies by using bold sentences (based on the questions they’ve asked), and organize your responses under them.

Bold statements act like subheadings and make reading easy for the customer.  

You can also use italics to place light emphasis on the points of interest. Italics work great when you’re referring to an in-app feature. Italics can be used to place emphasis on exactly what they are looking for.

But do not force your customer to read an entire paragraph in italics. It is not easy to read.

support email template

The email looks structured and you’ve italicized the parts you want to emphasize. Reading and absorbing information is easier that way.

Solution first, resources later

I am sure you’ve created explainer videos, written an entire library of help articles, and want customers to solve problems on their own. But, 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. 

I would not want to receive this reply from a company. I will take offense. This is poor customer service.

When a customer has come to you with a question, the first thing you want to do is answer them and not direct them to resources — something like:

support email template

You answer their question, tell them a little about the feature, and point them to the next step — which is described in the link you've pointed them to. This is a useful link, not an arrogant one!

Keep upselling for the end

The book Marketing Metrics says that the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20 percent while it is 60 to 70 percent for an existing customer. You obviously don’t want to lose the opportunity to nudge customers in support emails, but you have to draw a clear line between problem solving and upselling.

If you insert a link to a product video a few words into your email, you are not helping them — you are distracting them from the problem-solving workflow.

In customer service, it is important to keep the customer involved in the problem-solving process. Once you’ve listed down everything they need to do, it is a good time to insert links to your marketing videos.

The thumb rule is to never replace support with upsells; if you can solve the problem without upsells, nothing like it.

P.S. Never try upselling to an angry customer. That is not going to work well for you.

Resources you'll love

  • The MailChimp style guide for grammar and mechanics
  • Hubspot’s post on phrases to avoid in support emails
  • Voice and writing style guide from Uni of North Carolina
  • ICMI’s list of great support email templates
  • Provide Support’s infographic about positive support phrases

 

support emails

About the author

Harsh is the Marketing Lead at Hiver. He's always been an all-things-digital fanatic. He feels that Content Marketing found him magnetically.

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