How to Bring Back Personal Conversations to the Support Inbox

“Good day!
Thank you for reaching us and letting us know of your concern.
We are more than glad to assist you with regards to your concern—”

Sounds dry and disconnected, doesn’t it?

Customers receive variations of this email response all the time, and each one leaves them feeling like a support ticket in the queue, rather than a real person asking for help.

Despite the rising popularity of live chat, AI, and social media to provide fast and real-time customer service, 60% of consumers still prefer email when reaching out for help—making it one of the most popular channels for customer support.

Even if they do switch from email to live chat or phone support, customers would have to make the painful effort to do so in hopes of hearing back from an actual human being. That pain comes with a significant cost as well, with customers becoming 10% more disloyal than customers who were able to solve their issues with their first support channel of choice.

Whether your support team offers omnichannel support or traditional single-channel support via email, how your customer feels about the overall experience is what impacts their relationship with you and the product you serve. So when a customer receives a reply as personal and engaging as this one:

“Hi, Mary!
Thanks for taking the time to reach out. I’m John, and I’ll help you fix this payment failure before your trial expires.”

They’re sure to remember how special you’ve made them feel, and will have plenty of nice things to say about their experience with you. In fact, a quick look at consumer reviews on sites like TrustPilot shows how valuable quality customer service is to the customer—almost as much as the product itself.

Implementing a more personal approach to your email responses can turn something as tasteless as “tickets” into meaningful customer conversations. And when done right, these conversations can develop into long-term relationships where customers feel they can continue to trust and remain loyal to your brand.


Breathe Life Back into the Inbox

Email offers time and flexibility to craft a unique and personal response that not only addresses a customer’s issue but makes them feel they’re writing to someone they can trust.

How the customer feels and their willingness to connect with you have much to do with the language and tone of your reply. We’ve got seven tips you can use right away to personalize any response to a question, issue, or situation the customer comes to you for help for. Feel free to customize these tips to fit your team’s “voice” when delivering customer support.

#1 Write as Yourself

A customer conversation means finding that tonal balance between the personal and professional.

While it’s unlikely you’d write to the customer the same way you’d write to your Aunt Sally, ditching the corporate speak for simpler, more casual language assures them that a real human being is on the other side of the screen.

A good first step is to write as yourself, and not as the team, brand, or organization you represent. For example, use “I” instead of “we” or “our” when addressing yourself to the customer.

Example:

Good day!
Thank you for reaching out to us. We’re happy to help.

vs.

Hi, Tom!
Thanks for taking the time to reach out. I’d be more than happy to help!

#2 Acknowledge and Appreciate the Customer’s Effort

Each customer email is a moment of gratitude and opportunity.

It’s time out of one’s busy schedule to reach out to you for help; to share feedback; to report a bug or an error message that could affect other customers.

A light yet heartwarming thanks for reaching out, or thoughtful appreciation for sharing a screen recording of an issue, is acknowledging a customer’s effort and willingness to help your team and your company improve.

Example:

Hi, Tom!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share these screenshots with me. I was able to reproduce this issue, and have shared these with the engineering team.”  

#3 Listen, and Listen Well

The customer’s frustrated, confused, and they have questions that need answers.

Misunderstanding a question, disregarding feedback, or requesting information they’ve previously shared can quickly create even more frustration and increase disloyalty in the customer. It’s important to listen to what the customer’s communicating to you, and address their questions and concerns.

In times when you do misunderstand a customer’s question or provide inaccurate instructions, take ownership of the situation and let them know you’ve taken action on the issue. Saying “I’m sorry” may sound personal and vulnerable, but it’s just as powerful as “We apologize for the inconvenience.”  

Example:

We apologize for the inconvenience. This feature is not yet available.

vs.

I’m truly sorry this has created so much frustration for you. This feature has yet to be added to the product roadmap, but I’ve gone ahead and shared your feedback with the Product team.

#4 Anticipate What Your Customer Needs, and Would Need

A customer may have questions they didn’t know they needed to ask until after the end of your conversation.

Anticipating what the customer would ask in the future is a great way to improve the customer’s support experience. It saves them another email to send, and shaves off hours off your team’s workload. Self-service options like knowledgebase articles and FAQs are great when providing this kind of predictive support, but you can also be proactive in your email responses.  

Let’s say our customer, Tom, reaches out with a question about a feature in your product’s iOS app. You share instructions and advice that directly addresses his concern, but you foresee him reaching out to you again, asking how he’d be able to use this same feature with other members of his team.

Anticipating that need by mentioning the possibility, and providing a support article that has the information they would need, saves the customer time he would’ve spent looking for that feature, or writing another email to ask about it.

#5 Make the Customer Feel You’re a Team

As members of the support team, you strive to be advocates of the customer.

You want them to feel that you’re a team working towards the same end goal, whether that’s solving a technical issue or understanding how the product would fit their needs.

This encourages the customer to consider your instructions, listen to your suggestions, and share their thoughts about their user experience. Use questions instead of command sentences, or a more inviting tone of voice rather than demanding the customer to do what you asked of them.

Example:

Please take a screenshot of the error as soon as it appears on screen.

vs.

Let’s dig deeper to see what’s going on under the hood. Would you be able to take a screenshot of the error as it appears again, and send it to me as an attachment?

#6 Share Your Own Story

Customers may share personal experiences in relation to the question or issue they need help with. They may have missed updating their payment method due to a family emergency or need help installing your app on a new device due to a coffee spill by Simon the Cat.

Sharing your own stories and experiences is a great way to connect with the customer on an even deeper level, enabling them to see the “human” side to the support they’re receiving.

Example:

Hi Tom,
Thank you for the heads-up about the delay, and I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through such a difficult time at home. Take as much time as you need; I understand how important it is to be with your loved ones during these emergencies.

or

Hey Tom,
Thanks for reaching out about this, and I’m sorry to hear your laptop’s out for repairs. It’s funny because I just had my phone replaced as well after my kid accidentally dropped it into the pool.

#7 Take the Customer on a Journey

Imagine how frustrating it feels to reach out for additional help, only to be told to provide one’s full name, billing phone number, and mother’s maiden name all over again? It’s as if the conversation you had with the company two weeks ago never happened.

Eliminate additional back-and-forth by establishing your customer’s journey with your product. By combining context and collaboration, your team can leverage tools like customer journey maps to provide the right information and solve any issue quickly. This can be the customer’s order number, tracking information, current time zone, and organization.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, customers will always remember—and talk about—how the support experience made them feel, and whether or not they were able to get the help they needed to solve their problems.

By developing and adopting a more personal approach to email support, a simple sales or how-to question can easily transform into an opportunity to build a strong and lasting relationship with your customers.