Are Your Reps Making Any of These Mistakes In Consumer Email Responses?

 

 

An estimated 11 billion emails are sent everyday worldwide. If your Customer Service Department receives 100 emails a day and each one takes an average of 10 minutes to deal with, that’s more than two full work days involved in simply responding to email coming in on just one day! If this is your situation, your employees are probably overwhelmed and your customers are dissatisfied because they are experiencing unacceptable response delays.

E-Customer Service is supposed to make our lives easier, not harder. When E Customer Service is handled right, it offers many benefits, including increased customer satisfaction and retention, increased productivity, and reduced operations costs. 

Moving routine interactions online saves Cisco Systems nearly $270 million annually—with increased customer satisfaction. This week I am sharing with you 4 of the most common costly and time-consuming mistakes companies force their Customer Service Reps to make when handling email consumer response — and I offer solid solutions for each mistake.

1. Replying to Simple Requests and Routine Questions When You Should Be Using Auto Responders

A lot of us waste a lot of time responding to queries that won’t land us new business or even strengthen relationships with current customers when these same queries could be automatically handled. A simple, but often overlooked solution is to use Auto Responders. 

Auto responders allow you to send an immediate, pre-written response to anyone sending email to a designated address. For example, anyone sending an email to product44info@company.com could receive an automatic immediate reply with specific product information for Product #44, including a link to a downloadable product manual for Product #44, and no live person would have to read or respond to the message unless the auto responder doesn’t completely answer the customer’s question. To use Auto Responders, you’ll simply need to set up the pre-written messages and attach them to designated email addresses. (Your IT Department can help with this). 

2. Typing Routine Messages Over and Over When You Could Save Frequent Reply Messages in Draft Folders
Often, customer service professionals are saying the same thing over and over again to several customers via email. You can type the reply one time and save it as “draft” and then go back and copy the paragraph or phrase  and paste in your customer’s email. This draft can be saved on a folder on the company’s network or each customer service representative can have a copy saved in their email manager. Here’s how it works. If you often have to type something similar to: 

“We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions for the product.”

You would save this exact phrase in a draft folder and then copy and paste it as needed.


3. Shipping Customers Documents or Explaining to Them Where to Go On Your Website to Find Information When You Could Just Put Commonly Requested Documents In Portable Document Format (PDF)
Don’t waste time and money shipping documents and booklets or telling your customers where to find your docs on your website. Save commonly requested docs in your draft email folder. This way you can immediately send customers documents, even large documents such as User’s Manuals or Warranty Information without expensive postage and time delays by creating PDF (Portable Document Format) documents. Create Adobe® (www.createpdf.com) lets you convert a variety of documents into PDF files that anyone can view using the free Adobe® Reader®.

4. Not Maximizing Technology By Making Your Website a Self-Service Center
Responding to simple routine, non-revenue generating inquires is almost always a waste of your employees’ time. Your people need to be available to handle contacts where they have the opportunity to restore customer confidence, build loyalty, or strengthen relationships with your customers. They don’t need to handle “Can you tell me where the nearest XYZ Outlet is to zip code 74012?” questions. 

What you need to do is generate a list of commonly asked questions and put the questions and your answers on your website so customers can search your database and find their own answers. This can save an enormous amount of time and money because customers can serve themselves instead of calling your reps or sending emails for help. One of my clients, Vistakon – a division of Johnson & Johnson, has the best example of online customer service I’ve seen. Check out Vistakon’s FAQ page by going to http://www.jnjvision.com/faq.html.Other great examples include Amazon.com and http://www.callcenterwebinars.com/faq.html.  

Bottom Line: Automate as much as you possibly can and always look for ways to automate more of your routine responses. Four out of 10 workers don’t find that email makes them more productive and that’s probably because they haven’t learned to automate common functions. Implement the ideas I presented here and you’ll find that email not only makes you more productive, but it increases customer satisfaction and frees staff up for more tasks.

How to Craft Friendly Emails That WOW Customers

How to Craft Friendly Emails That WOW Customers

10 Tips to Take Your Emails to the Next Level! 

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You’re in for a treat, because today I have for you a unique email session with the most important tips, tools and techniques you need to make your emails appear both friendly and professional. If you communicate with your customers via email, you can’t afford to miss this!

1. Write a Subject Line That Pops
The subject line is your first impression in email communication so make sure your first impression is personal and attention-getting. By far, the most common subject line in email responses to customers is: “Re: customer web inquiry”. Sure, it’s accurate, but what a waste of opportunity to connect with customers and make your communication memorable.

You can immediately capture your customer’s attention by doing 2 simple things with your subject lines: (1) Using the customer’s name in the subject line (whenever possible) and (2) inserting a short phrase that speaks to the customer’s issue. Here’s what I mean:

Joe, the lawn mower manual you requested is attached.
Lynn, your replacement widget will ship tomorrow.
Lauren, here are tips to help maintain your garden.

Personalize your emails and they’ll be read before anything else in the customer’s inbox. I guarantee it. Now, when you personalize subject lines be sure to keep it short. Subject lines should be no more than 60 characters. It’s just fine to use fragments in subject lines as long as you’re clear.

2. Open with a friendly salutation.

Most emails from companies open with “Dear.” Be different and friendly by opening with “Hello.”  Email is a much less formal communication means than the business letter. It should be conversational – just like you’re sitting across from your customer. Let your salutation be as simple and friendly as “Hello Myra.”

3. Thank the customer for the email and/or complaint
A lot of companies begin complaint response letters with: “We have received your email dated…” Don’t do this. The fact that you’re responding to the email is irrefutable proof that you have received the customer’s letter. Instead of wasting words, immediately go into a response designed to restore the customer’s confidence and regain their goodwill.
My favorite approach to beginning a complaint letter is to begin by expressing appreciation for the feedback. Here are some ways to express appreciation for customer feedback:

“Thank you for taking the time to write to us.” (This is ideal for a response letter to a customer who is actually responsible for the error or when you cannot honor the customer’s request for a refund or exchange.)

“Thank you for your email. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.”

“Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify what we think has happened.”

4. Use Personal Pronouns to Personalize Your Message and Establish Rapport
The Franklin Covey Style Guide suggests, “Probably no single language choice is as effective in making business documents human and personal as well-chosen pronouns.”  And this style guide is absolutely right. Using personal pronouns like I, Me, You, and We make your emails more conversational and friendly.

Take a look at this excerpt from an actual email to a customer. The customer sent it to me and raved about how awesome the email was. What made it great was the use of personal pronouns by the customer service rep to make it real and establish rapport.

I am very sorry to hear of your recent disappointment in our studio
services.  We assure you that customer satisfaction is our top priority and we want the service at our studios to reflect that principle.  We realize the importance of having portraits taken and the time and effort involved in preparing for a sitting.  As a mother of three children I can certainly understand the frustration and disappointment you had with having to wait so long and then not having the quality sitting you are entitled to.

5. Empathize with the Problem Your Customer Has Experienced

One of the easiest ways to connect with your customers on a personal level and let them know for certain that the email didn’t come from a template is to use empathy. Last summer I returned a camcorder to QVC. A couple of weeks later I contacted the company via live chat to check the status of my return. Here’s how the customer service representative WOWed me with an empathetic response to my routine question:

Ms Golden, I’m so sorry the Canon Vixia HV30 MiniDV HD Camcorder hasn’t been processed as of yet.   I know you’re anxious to have this completed.  The return processing time can take up to 17 days from the date an order is returned to QVC.  I hope your item is processed soon.

What I especially loved about this response was, “I know you’re anxious to have this completed.” And “I hope your item is processed soon.” Show a little empathy and personal concern in your emails and soon your customers will be raving about you!

6. When the Email Addresses a Problem, Explain What Happened and Why

Taking the time to explain to customers what might have caused the problem helps you re-establish trust. Here’s how Jet Blue explained what happened in an apology letter to its customers after a pretty big fiasco.

 

 “The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unusually long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.”

7. Respect Your Customer by Answering ALL of Her Questions
Answer ALL questions – this is a BIG one. Customers find it frustrating to get an incomplete response from the company. Carefully read and re read the customer’s email to ensure you have captured every issue and make sure you respond to each of the issues.

8. Don’t Use Email to Give a Customer Bad News
Tim Sanders, best-selling author and former Yahoo! Executive, said recently in his newsletter: “At Yahoo!, I always told my folks, ‘Email is for saying yes and for exchanging information. If you want to say no, criticize or get into an emotionally charged issue, pick up the phone or do it in person’. Email fails to communicate your intentions, so it usually looks pretty insensitive.”

Certainly, it’s going to take more time and effort on your part to pick up the phone and call a customer to communicate bad news, but you really need to make the sacrifice.

Speaking to the customer by phone gives you the opportunity to establish rapport, re-build trust, offer alternatives, or to offer a sincere and unreserved apology. Email communication is so vulnerable to miscommunication and you are at great risk for losing the customer when you convey bad news electronically without the opportunity to truly defend your position.

9. Add a P.S.
I’m about to let you in on a secret that is apparently unknown to most companies: Studies show that the postscript is the most often read and the first read portion of any letter. Joe Vitale, author of Hypnotic Marketing, encourages his readers to always use a P.S. and says “Your P.S. is your chance to state your strongest point, or offer your guarantee, or to mention just how wonderful your product is.”

Here are some great ways to add a post script to a complaint response email:

P.S. As a concrete form of apology I am sending you two additional widget kits. You can enjoy one now and one later. Thanks for being a loyal Widget Company customer!

P.S. I wanted to let you know that right now we’re running a special. When you buy 2 widgets, you get a third widget at absolutely no charge—and we pay the shipping. This may be a great time to pick up a widget up for you, your mother, and a special friend!

P.S. You are always welcome to call me with any additional questions. My direct dial number is 443-982-1131.

10.  End your email on a friendly note.

Here’s one way Amazon Customer Relations ends emails:

 

Regards,

Autumn Walker Executive Customer Relations

Amazon, I love you.

Of course, you don’t have to go that far. You can simply end your emails in a friendly way by adding your name, toll-free number, and email like this:

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

1-888-888-8888

jane@abccompany.com
Adopt and apply these simple tips and your emails will grab your customer’s attention, be memorable, AND they will help you build and strengthen loyalty with your customers!

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

How to Handle a Complaint Over Email -7 Simple Steps

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Every email that goes out from your customer service team has your company’s brand in the signature line, it puts your corporate reputation on the line, and at the fingertips of a disgruntled customer, your emails can be plastered all over the Internet by way of a powerful blog.

Nearly half of all routine customer service questions emailed are not answered adequately. Companies are addressing only a portion of customers’ questions or the answers they give leave customers thinking a robot must have read the email.

Another big problem with consumer email response is many emails are just plain sloppy. They are filled with mistakes that make companies look unprofessional. Most people don’t review or edit their emails – they just hit “send”- and when they do, they are putting an entire brand’s credibility on the line.

Email customer service is supposed to give customers quicker answers and solutions while allowing companies to slash operations costs. When email threads go back and forth unnecessarily because questions aren’t answered, operations costs exceed the cost of telephone interactions. And sloppy emails rob companies of credibility.

So you need to carefully craft and proof your emails. How do you do it? Here are 7 basic steps for you.

Step One- Read the customer’s email in its entirety

Forty-six percent of consumers opening emails from companies are frustrated to discover that their question(s) was not answered. This often happens because employees stop at the first problem described in the email and they, at best, skim the rest of the email. Read the entire email before typing anything.

An excellent way to ensure you respond to every question in the customer’s email is to copy the customer’s email and paste it into your reply back. After pasting the customer’s content into your reply, go paragraph by paragraph through the customer’s email and type your response after each of the customer’s paragraphs. You are, in essence, taking the customer’s email and breaking it into little workable chunks and easily addressing every single issue. (After addressing the customer’s questions completely, you, of course, delete the pasted paragraphs.)

Tip – I often copy exact words and phrases that the customer uses in her initial email and paste it into my reply. This allows me to “mirror” the customer’s language and it shows that I truly did read the customer’s email.

Step Two- Open your email with “Thank you.”

A lot of companies begin complaint response emails with: “We have received your email dated…” Don’t do this. The fact that you’re responding to the email is irrefutable proof that you have received the customer’s email. Instead of wasting words, immediately go into a response designed to restore the customer’s confidence and regain their goodwill.

My favorite approach to beginning a complaint letter is to begin by expressing appreciation for the feedback. Here are some ways to express appreciation for customer feedback:

  • “Thank you for taking the time to write to us.” (This is ideal for a response email to a customer who is actually responsible for the error or when you cannot honor the customer’s request for a refund or exchange.)
  • “Thank you for your email. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.”
  • “Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify what we think has happened.”

Step Three – Apologize

Most company replies to emails that describe problems do not include an apology. To not apologize to a customer who has experienced a problem is to miss an opportunity.  Making an apology to customers after things go wrong is positively related to satisfaction with the company’s “recovery.”  When your employees apologize to customers, they convey politeness, courtesy, concern, effort, and empathy.

Let me let you in on a little secret: an apology doesn’t have to be an admission of fault. And it’s not even about placing blame. The whole point is to convey that you genuinely care about how the customer was treated and to regain goodwill.

I believe in apologizing to the customer whether the problem they experienced was a result of an act of nature, a third party, or even the customer. It goes without saying that I believe that we must apologize when the problem is the fault of the company.

Here’s how you can apologize when the problem is not the company’s fault:

  •  “I’m sorry for any frustration you may have experienced.”
  • “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding may have caused you.”
  • “I’m sorry. I feel awful about your problem.”

Step Four –Explain why or how the problem happened

A vital, but often overlooked element of customer recovery is to provide an explanation for how or why the problem happened. Taking the time to explain to a customer what might have caused the problem helps organizations re-establish trust.

In an article titled, Manage Complaints to Enhance Loyalty, John Goodman says, “In many case, a clear, believable explanation as to why the policy or performance is reasonable will at least mollify the customer and, in some case, satisfy him or her.”

 

Providing an explanation can be as simple as saying,

“Thanks for taking the time to let us know about _____. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.”

A customer posted a response letter from  Southwest Airlines on the Consumerist website that provides an outstanding example of how to give customers a frank, yet safe explanation of why a problem occurred. The transparent justification of the problem in this letter subliminally offers an apology, makes the letter feel personal, and it certainly rebuilt trust with the recipient.

Customers will always appreciate you taking the time to explain why the problem occurred and again, this gesture on your part helps to reestablish trust.

Step Five- Offer compensation if applicable

When the problem is clearly the fault of the company, recompense (in the form of discounts, free merchandise, refunds, gift cards, coupons, and product samples) will help you restore customer confidence and regain goodwill. Our research has found that 58% of complaining consumers who received something in the mail following their contact with the company were delighted, versus only 40% of those who did not receive anything.

Don’t hold back when it comes to compensating customers after a service failure. Your reward will be increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and powerfully persuasive positive word-of-mouth advertising.

Optional, Bonus Step – Surprise & Delight

This step is optional, but I highly recommend it. Surprise and Delight is all about inspiring a feeling of astonishment through unexpectedness.

One of my clients in the beauty industry is maximizing surprise & delight by creatively using gift cards in a way that is generating profits. They used to compensate customers dollar-for-dollar; a $3 overcharge was resolved with a $3 check. Makes sense doesn’t it? Well, now they give a $10 gift card for a $3 overcharge. The customer is WOW’d. But not only is the customer WOW’d and telling her girlfriends about the unexpected gift card, but the company is enjoying a redemption rate of 67% with customers spending 2x the gift card amount in the store.

Try a little surprise & delight and you’ll get your customers talking and, if you design it right, you’ll also enjoy growth as a direct result of the WOW factor.

Step Six – Proof your email!

Grammar gaffes make your company look bad. You and I both know spell check (and even grammar check) won’t catch everything. You are going to have to invest a little time to read and re-read every line of your emails to make sure they look and read professional. Here are some hard and fast email proofing tips:

  • Point with your finger and read one word at a time. Yes, this will take some time, but you’ll be amazed at how many mistakes you capture this way.
  • Read your email aloud and silently.
  • Proof for only one type of mistake at a time. Do one read through just for punctuation, another for word usage, and another for accuracy of your message.
  • Print your email out and read it.
  • Start at the final paragraph of your email and read it backwards.

Step Seven- Respond as quickly as reasonably possible

The average company takes 2 days (46 hours) to respond to a customer’s email. This is not okay with customers. You need to shoot for responding to emails within 2-4 hours. Is this easy? No, but you need to align your processes and manpower to make it happen.

And here’s why: A speedy response will improve your corporate credibility with consumers and it boosts customer satisfaction. Research shows the longer it takes for companies to respond to email complaints, the greater the customer’s perception that they have been treated unfairly.

Every email that goes out from your customer service team has your company’s brand in the signature line, it puts your reputation on the line, and it forms a binding document between you and the customer. Make sure your message is professional, actively works to regain customer goodwill, and is free of embarrassing gaffes. Follow these simple seven steps and your emails will bless you, rather than curse you.

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

Excellent Problem Response Letter From American Airlines

Watch my full customer recovery video to get 5 steps for restoring customer confidence after service failures.

The Corporate Apology: How to Apologize In 5 Easy Steps

Proud Businesswomen

You probably remember the story about dozens of JetBlue Airlines’ passengers being stranded for more than 10 hours on the tarmac without taking off. That was February 2007. Would you believe that JetBlue still managed to get the JD Power & Associates Award for #1 Customer Satisfaction for the airline industry for that year?

How did they do it? They apologized outright to customers after the traumatic event. And here’s how they did it:

 “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.”

A lot of companies are afraid to apologize because they think an apology assumes responsibility or that it may put the company at risk for liability. And I think this is a huge mistake.

The JetBlue example assumes total responsibility, holding nothing back. Look at how JetBlue goes on with their apology:

“Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration, and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.”

JetBlue’s apology acknowledges their passengers’ “pain,” assumes accountability, conveys sincere concern, and the apology is direct. Most companies are too cautious to pull off an apology like this. Maybe the willingness to offer a genuine, bold apology after a service mishap is part of the reason JetBlue has topped the JD Power rankings for best in customer service for four consecutive years.

If your goal is to restore customer confidence and retain more customers, you need to apologize to customers in the wake of any problem, regardless of fault. When you do, you create emotional bonds with customers and build and strengthen customer loyalty.

Following are the 5 simple steps to apologizing to customers.

1. Outright apology

Start out with a clear and direct apology. “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.”

 

2. Explain what happened and why

A fundamental, but often overlooked element of customer recovery is to provide an explanation for how or why the problem occurred. Taking the time to explain to a customer what might have caused the problem helps organizations re-establish trust. Here’s how Jet blue described what happened in their apology letter:

  “The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unusually long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.”

 

3. Acknowledge the customer’s “pain.”

Make an empathetic statement that responds to the customer’s emotions. JetBlue did it this way:

“Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration, and inconvenience that you, your family, friends and colleagues experienced.”

 

 

4. Explain steps you’re taking to minimize problems going forward

 

In cases where the problem was apparently the fault of the company or one of your suppliers, you owe it to your customers to tell them what you plan to do to ensure they don’t end up in the same situation again. JetBlue’s explanation is textbook perfect:

 

 “We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crewmembers and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties. Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights – our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward – including details of compensation. We invite you to learn more at jetblue.com/promise.”

 

5. Ask for forgiveness

Make a request for your customer’s continued business. You might do it like this:

“You deserved better – a lot better – from us last week, and we let you down. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to once again welcome you onboard and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.”

Apologize to customers using these 5 field-tested and proven steps, and you’ll ultimately restore customer confidence in your company after even the worst has happened.

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches, and phrases to help your employees help your customers.