How to Write a Customer Service Email and Still Sound Like a Human
Updated: Dec 28, 2019
If you have been working in any kind of support position for some time already, or if you’re the one responding to your own business’ customers, there might be a moment when you start feeling like every day is a repetition of the previous one. Even though this could be said about almost any job (even the lead singer in a band gets tired of the flight-hotel-concert routine), support representatives can end up feeling like clients come and go, but emails remain the same.
Emails are a pillar of support service. They are not the perfect way to solve issues, but their pros and cons actually do pretty well when compared to the alternatives. Your clients might prefer calling you and having their issues solved right away. However, emailing allows for registering an ongoing thread, which is beneficial to both sides in the long run. Your team can reply faster, as the next available agent is able to jump in after reading the previous dialogue in your customer support software. Plus, the client can always revisit the messages in their own inbox, to find useful information and links you might have shared, instead of going through all the trouble of getting in touch with you again. On the other hand, when not written properly, emails can sound as though a robot wrote them, even if that robot is you!
In this article we will go over the reasons why clients may feel that an answer hasn’t been tailor-made for their specific issue, and how to write a customer service email that is both helpful and straight to the point:
01. Avoid the most common mistakes
It looks like you did not read their message thoroughly. Well, there is no better advice in this case than: read their email. Two, three or as many times as you need until you’re sure you have a full understanding of their questions. This often overlooked step is essential in identifying the type of message. Are they a potential client trying to understand if your product fits their needs, or an angry user facing a blocker issue that is affecting the quality of their own service? Or even a long-time client, who loves your service but needs to get a bug fixed? Having both the content and the form of the message figured out will allow you to provide your client with an answer while remaining friendly, calm and fully- equipped to handle their issue.
They feel like your reply does not fit their level of familiarity with the product. Okay, this is a tricky one. Unless you are familiar with your client, there is no way of making sure whether or not they know your platform like the back of their hand. Even though you might want to include basic troubleshooting steps, you should also bear in mind that reaching out to you might not have been their first option. Consider also including more advanced solutions that cater to the more savvy users who have already tried the most common procedures found on Google.
Your email does not offer all the tools available to solve the issues in question. As a business manager or support representative, you are supposed to know everything about the product (or service) - from its brightest features to its biggest flaws. But you should also be able to transmit this knowledge in a way that can be fully understood and referenced in the future. It’s very useful if the support solution your company uses offers a way to go over all of your previous correspondences with each user in a single thread. Another handy asset is having a knowledge base of articles that allows users and agents to find explanations and tutorials about all the different aspects that you offer, as well as answers to the most frequently asked questions. With Wix Answers, you can insert links to these pages or even have their content automatically added to your emails, making them as complete as it gets.
The solution you offer is outdated. This is why you have a team of humans providing support, instead of an algorithm that answers all the messages automatically. If you dealt with a similar case a couple of months earlier, the solution found back then will not necessarily fix the issue your client is facing right now. The experience you’ve accumulated over the months and years is your tool box, but you still have to test every fix, case-by-case. There is nothing worse than sending an email with a solution, only to have to send an additional message explaining that the procedure doesn’t actually apply - but you didn’t know that because you didn’t test it yourself.
Having established everything that you should avoid doing, let’s delve into the best practices of writing a customer service email and making it sound like it was written by a real human being.
02. Use saved responses cautiously
Should you use saved responses in the first place? Yes, but also no. For obvious reasons, it is important that the person or team in charge of answering support messages actively writes every email that is sent out. On the other hand, the constant repetition of questions naturally demands some sort of saved reply depository. It’s absolutely fine to prepare chunks of emails in advance for cases such as detailed instructions and answers to simple queries. Having these pieces of content also guarantees that no small detail is forgotten, which could end up generating another email when the user notices that something is missing.
On the other hand, you or your team will still need to write the ‘human parts’ of the email: its opening, the specific analysis of the case, the connections between the different sections of the copied material, and the email's closure. Keep reading for more tips on that.
03. Understand your brand’s voice
Think about your company’s voice. Yes, that is exactly what you read. Even if you’ve never thought about it, your company has a voice. As a support representative, you represent a brand, so it’s important to be aware of the wording you use. Conduct thorough research so as to understand your brand’s tone and the agreed upon messaging regarding any specific topic. This exercise will be beneficial for other aspects of your work too, as your voice should be consistent across all of your channels and assets, in terms of both support and marketing.
Now it’s finally time to write your customer service email, and the first step is the opening line.
04. Address the client sensitively
There is nothing wrong with “Hi” and “Hello”. The first line of every email is where you set the level of formality not only for the rest of the email, but also for the whole relationship between the company and the client. Here at Wix, we always opt for a middle-of-the-way style - not as informal as a “Yo”, but not as formal as “Dear Sir”. “Hi” and “Hello” are just perfect.
Be attentive to cultural differences. Communication is a two-way street, so you might have to be flexible in terms of formality. The laid-back, funny and friendly style that start-ups usually adopt is not for everyone. If you sense that a client is located in a place with a different culture, or has repeatedly written in a more formal manner, you might want to adjust your tone in order to build trust.
Call me by my name. The ideal first line should read "Hi [CLIENT'S NAME]". Their name can probably be found somewhere in the original message: if it’s not part of the email address, it will still appear as the display name or be automatically included in the signature. Avoid using the company's name or the username - "Hi Grandma's Bakery" and "Hi helpdesk77" are not ideal ways to start your email. When in doubt, just go with "Hello" or "Hi there".
05. Show understanding and empathy
This is the famous "thank you for your message" part of your email. Except that you should never simply say "thank you for your message". This is the second line of your email and you should invest in it, making it clear to the client that you fully understand the nature of their message. Use “Thanks” and “Sorry” to add empathy to their situation, while describing it at the same time.
If the nature of the communication is positive, demonstrate how excited you are to read it: "Cool! Thanks for your interest in our new collection! We also think the colors are amazing," or "Amazing! Thanks for downloading our app! The whole team put in a huge effort for it!" Or maybe a more neutral "Thanks for the compliment and rest assured that our team is committed to fixing this issue.”
On the other hand, when the message is more negative or dramatic, you should be more careful with your wording. It’s important to show your sincere empathy, while also avoiding pointing fingers. "I am sorry that this feature does not cater to your needs" and "I am sorry that our service did not meet your expectations" are a good start, but you should follow that with a more uplifting: "but I would like to suggest an alternative solution" or "but I would like to pitch your idea to the team and see if they think we can add it to our roadmap.”
06. Reformulate the issue with the right wording
Reformulating is a great tool in communication - and not only when it comes to support and email correspondences. Above all, it demonstrates that you fully empathize with the client and the situation that they are facing. Additionally, it is important to establish a direct connection between the issue that the user is describing in their own words and its formal name that you use within your team.
Here at Wix, for example, we get messages from users who say they want to change their website's name. Even though that (changing a website's name) is an existing procedure within our system, usually what they’re looking for is to alter the website's title (what appears in the browser's tab) or its domain (the website's actual address). By reformulating the issue in our terms, we clarify what they mean and avoid providing instructions for the incorrect procedure - which could result in more support over email, in addition to eventual monetary costs.
07. Approach EVERY issue that the client mentions
A considerable amount of the customer service emails you receive will mention one sole issue to be dealt with. However, it’s not rare to come across messages containing a few issues and inquiries together. In these cases, avoid sending individual replies to each question. It’s preferable to take some time and concatenate a full email with the relevant answer to each question - use bullet points or number the issues, if you see fit.
Naturally, some issues will be easier or faster to solve than others. It’s a legitimate solution to send a reply approaching all of them, in the order that the user initially wrote them. You can also explain that one or more of the points brought up are being investigated, or were taken for further analysis by a more specialized team. This way, you bring honesty to the game, demonstrating that you’re invested in finding solutions for all of their issues, but some of them require a longer, more thorough look. Also, if there is something that can only be fixed with the user's help, let them know what procedures they should perform on their side. And make it clear which information they should provide in order to move forward with the issue on your side.
8. Double-check every detail
This should go without saying, but do not press “send” without double-checking everything. First of all, there is spelling and grammar, which can be reviewed with the help of other softwares or add-ons - Microsoft Word and Google Chrome have their own tools, and Grammarly is also an excellent option. Beyond that, only the human eye can certify that all the links added to your email work and point to the right direction, and that all the content fits the user's needs and is 100% up-to-date with your product's current version. Finally, make sure you’ve attached any file mentioned in the text and you’re good to go!
Ready to take your customer service emails to the next level? Enjoy all the advantages of the most advanced customer support software now!