Four years ago, working on customer support in Lisbon, I would routinely get thousands upon thousands of messages every single month. Checking my inbox every morning (or as I came to call it, Pandora’s Inbox) entailed reading everything from threats to love letters, compliments to complaints.
Once I got to the office I just wanted to get it over with. Between sips of coffee, I would reply to every support ticket as fast as I could.
Since then, I’ve replaced customer support for marketing (customer support has moved on without me). Thanks to AI and other emerging technologies, companies have been able to deliver faster customer service over the last few years. Recent trends indicate that most customers are handling more of the simple issues themselves with self-service technologies, while customer support agents are getting to the issues customers can’t solve on their own.
However, despite the decrease in volume of support tickets, the job of a customer service agent doesn’t get any easier. They are under constant crossfire, facing the rage of angry customers and dealing with the complex problems that machines can’t solve.
This means that the conversations you have with your customers are now more important than ever. But, are you delivering the right message? Here’s a few tips to ensure you’re doing just that.
In a sea of emails and requests, it’s often the tiny details that end up being important. With so much that’s automated, you need to make sure that your customer understands you’re a person they can trust, and not a robot.
Always add the name of the person you’re responding to in the beginning of every email. That’s simple but also extremely powerful. It’s just like Dale Carnegie said in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”: “remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.
And you should do the same for yourself. Sign with your name and add a little personal touch. For example, adding your own photo to the email signature not only increases conversion but, it also builds trust.
Remember, it’s a conversation, not as a transaction.
Be caring, but don’t go over the top
It’s nice to show that you care about your customers but, there’s a line you shouldn’t cross. It’s great to say “thank you” and ask “hey, how are you doing?” but, if you’re too enthusiastic in your writing you may sound fake.
According to this article on Harvard Business Review, “delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does”.
So, get to the point and keep it simple. Avoid exclamation marks and too many emoticons, because it may look like you’re trying too hard.
Be helpful and attentive instead.
The whole point is to remove obstacles. Customers resent having to contact the company repeatedly, and not having their issues solved.
Bad news first
I don’t know about you but, when I get to choose between good or bad news first, I always go for bad first. I guess that looking on the bright side of life makes me feel better.
And that’s exactly what this study from researchers at UC-Riverside found out. People who were given the bad news first were more likely to feel better about what they were told, while people who were given the bad news last were more motivated to act on the news.
However, we all know that’s not always the case in customer support. For example, if you have bad news to tell like “we no longer have that product,” you may want to do that first, but if you do have the product but you can only deliver in two weeks time, you may want to give the good news first.
Use positive language
One of things I always do when writing is to be positive because that’s often how you can influence people and create empathy, and in customer support that’s no different.
For example Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer, Carolyn Kopprasch, removed the words “actually” and “but” from her vocabulary. The result was a much more positive language and better customer engagement.
Another similar tip from copywriting is that you should also avoid negation in a sentence, because according to psychological research if you include negative words, such as “not,” in the middle of a sentence it can throw off our brains and make it more difficult to understand.
However, that’s not always possible in customer support. You often have to use negation in your sentences, and there’s no running away from it. The good news though is that a recent research published on Psychological Science showed that the way negative statements are processed in the brain depends on the structure of the sentence itself.
According to their results, your customers should understand your message just fine if the information you’re providing to them is useful and informative.
Meet the expectations
In the end, what truly matters is for you to solve your customers’ problems and meet their expectations. We’re living in a fast-paced world where people are increasingly impatient and demanding, and when you’re talking about customer support that is even more so.
To help your customers know what to expect keep them posted or let them know exactly when they should expect to hear from you.