I want to expand a bit on my last post about customer service as a competitive advantage. In the past I’ve written about our customer service workflow, our “self service” system, and how we’ve begun “auditing” specific functions of our site based upon our support emails, but in this post I want to focus primarily on writing great emails.
In particular, emails when a customer has a problem. At this point they’re already frustrated, annoyed, and possibly angry. While it’s important to write back in a timely manner, it’s more important to get the email right. Nothing is more infuriating than getting an email back 15 minutes later that doesn’t answer your question!
Over the years we’ve developed a rough outline for these type of emails. The single most important thing we’ve learned is to solve the problem as early as you can in the email. Reduce their stress. Put them at ease. Talk them off the ledge. Let them know that everything is going to be O.K. Then later on in the email you can offer more details or explain why the problem happened. I’d say that’s the biggest improvement we’ve made to constructing our emails now as compared to five or ten years ago.
This might be better illustrated with an example. Let’s say a customer receives a damaged package and their irate because they won’t be able to do their weekend detail. I might write something like:
I’m so sorry! I’ve gone ahead and shipped your order again at no charge to you. I’ve upgraded your shipping to FedEx Express so that it will still reach you by the weekend. As soon as your package leaves our warehouse today you’ll received an automated email with your tracking information.
We work hard to ensure that every order is packed carefully, but occasionally there are issues while the package is in transit. I’ll be sure to review your case with our warehouse team in order to help us prevent issues like this in the future.
Thanks for shopping with us! If there’s anything else I can do to help please let me know.
(We actually answer that email a little differently now that we have our “self service” system, but I think you get the point).
In the past, I might have swapped those first two paragraphs, putting the reason ahead of the resolution. I might have buried the lead in the second paragraph, making it easy to miss. The reality is that people scan more than they read, and if they’re already a bit ticked off with you it’s wise to make sure that the first thing you do is let them know that you’re going to take care of them.
In my last post I mentioned how low the bar is set because of how poor other companies perform customer service. This creates a big opportunity, but the downside of that is that customers who don’t know you are going to assume that you’re going to provide bad support too. You have to go out of your way to win them over, and in most cases you can.