3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Company’s Email Support

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“When it comes to creating customer happiness, better service is the answer…”

Hands up: how many times have you heard that and thought, “Yawn…”

We’ve all heard the same trite advice before.

Although WOWing your customers time and time again (like Buffer continues to do) is important in creating a business people love, the “customer evangelists” out there are always talking fluff, and very rarely address the far less sparkling side of implementation.

That’s because it’s easy to talk the talk… but what about putting it in to practice?

The post you are about to read isn’t your typical take on customer service, because it actually digs into how you can improve your email support system with some very easy steps to take advantage of the most popular communication platform on the web.

(That’s right, email still > social media)

Let’s dig in…

10 Types of Email Support Questions

There are a huge number of questions you can get hit with when doing email support, and you should know how to respond to the most common of them.

Before you begin the rest of the post, be sure to read this free guide from Support Ops on the most common email support questions and how you can amaze each and every customer who asks them.

You can also download the PDF for free right here.

The author, Chase Clemons, is a customer support expert an handles support for the 37 Signals team, so you should definitely pay attention!

Now, let’s get in to the 3 changes you can make today to improve your email support…

Step 1 — Improve First Contact

Have you ever sent a message to a company and had doubts of whether or not it actually went through?

I’ve had this happen many times with contact forms and other entry points for sending an email, and it is a very poor case of non-verbal website communication.

Each time someone emails you asking for help, you need to let them know that you’ve got their email. It takes away the anxiety of…

“Did they get my email? Should I send it again?!”

You can do this with easily:

  1. Have better on-site confirmation: If you are letting your customers contact you via a web form, make sure something obvious (that stands out on the webpage) pops up that confirms a customer’s message has been sent. (ie, a simple, “Alright! Your message has successfully been sent.”)
  2. Use non-robotic follow up emails: Use an autoresponder to give customers a confirmation email that their message has been received… but don’t be so freaking robotic!

Here’s an example of a bad follow-up email (it’s a real email, the company will not be named out of mercy! ;)):

A few things…

  • Have you ever heard of the word, “Thanks”? It goes a long way in making people feel appreciated.
  • Your “correspondence” with a customer? Are you the Duke of York? Tone down the formality and make it feel like a conversation.
  • When I see the phrase “your ticket number,” I cringe. I hate dealing with tickets. Let customers know that they can contact by replying to the email. If they can’t, you should set it up so that they can, it’s much more convenient.
  • Ah, the faceless “App Team #8103“… I much rather know that “Steve” will get back to me when he can. If your support team is large, use the head support member’s name, at least then I fee like a real person is on the case.

With those changes made, you can come up with a much better follow-up:

Step 2 — Streamline Your Customer Feedback

Let me take a shot in the dark here… a huge majority of the feedback that you receive from customers comes to you via email.

Email just seems to be the medium that dominates both support and feedback, yet some companies just can’t seem to grasp that they need better feedback systems for their customers to use.

Right now I’m going to show you a dead simple strategy that will allow you to keep track of feature requests via email quickly and accurately, and that has even helped my team improve our overall email response rates by 340%.

Tactic #1 — Keep the team informed in real-time

One app that our team simply can’t live without is Campfire.

Although we rely on it heavily for team-wide communication, we also recently revealed how we decided to set up a separate “room” for all incoming support queries:

Since many help desk apps integrate nicely with Campfire, any and all feature quests or other dilemmas can be view-able to your team as soon as they hit your inbox.

This is a huge part of how we were able to improve our response time by over 340%.

September 1 – October 13:

October 13 – October 27:

That’s not the end of this story, however.

Tactic #2 — Allow all team members to organize feedback

This is where we get to the ninja stuff.

To manage feature requests and other feedback suggestions, we use a simple board system with the Trello app to keep things in order.

Trello allows you to create both “boards” and “cards” to keep tabs on any project you’re working on. For us, it serves as a collaborative way to keep product ideas, features, and other feedback organized and easily referenced.

Here’s just a peak at a simple board setup you can use:

Dividing things like feature requests into boards like Next Up (those that have been approved + are on deck to do), Roadmap (those that have been approved but can be done later), and Ideas (customer requests that haven’t been approved) keeps things organized for your team.

I no longer have to wonder, “Will we be implementing this feature?” because I can just check the board to see if the customer’s request has already been asked before.

Tactic #3 — Divide boards up for easy navigation

While boards allow you to divvy up sections nicely, they essentially serve as “File Folders” like you have on you’re computer, and will be useless unless you fill them up with stuff!

On Trello, you can create “cards” within particular boards, so you can divide a board like “Product Roadmap” into other easily browsed topics like Apps/Bugs, and create cards for each instance:

With this system, you can easily organize a card around a feature that multiple customers have asked for.

In fact, when a feature request and corresponding card is in place, we add emails of those customers who asked for the feature, so that they can be the first to know when it’s live:

(Emails blocked out for privacy)

You’ll also notice that each card comes with a “Specs” section that elaborates what exactly the feature request is, and how it will be implemented (if you have any team members not experienced with product development, this is a must).

With this system in place, your team will know exactly what features have already been requested, which are being worked on, and who wants to hear about them first.

Step 3 — Responding to Unhappy Customers

Dealing with unhappy customers is unfortunate, but it is one of the must have customer service skills for all employees who interact with customers.

There will likely be two reasons unhappy customers will reach out to you…

  1. They are having problems: Most unhappy customers are those who are having problems with your product or service. They are likely confused, frustrated, upset about something… or all of the above. Remember to keep your cool, and view it as an opportunity to win a customer back.
  2. They are done with your service: These customers want to cancel, and there is usually nothing you can do to bring them back at this point. The key here is to just get them out as smoothly as possible, don’t elongate the process or beg them to return.

Let’s take a look at good and bad examples of both.

Situation #1 — A customer is confused/unhappy with your product

Unhappy customers can be both within and out of your control: you can’t handle the way someone is going to act, but you can handle the way you respond to it.

Needless to say, no matter what you do, sometimes you’ll get customers that are unhappy for no good reason.

The reason matters not, just make sure you aren’t handling complaints like this:

Argh…

A couple of things:

  1. Say you’re sorry: Don’t get passive agressive with things like “I’m sorry you are having problems,” simply apologize personally. It may not be your fault, but don’t risk making customers angier with a bad opening line.
  2. Get specific and enthusiastic: Find out what they don’t like about your product/service, find out what they do like and how they are currently using it. Show that you are unhappy that they are unhappy, and affirm their belief that someone on your team is just as upset about this situation as they are!

With a bit of adjustment, you can be on your way to a simple, yet far superior response:

Situation #2 — A customer wants a refund

Hey, it happens, you can’t make everybody happy!

As noted above, if a customer is looking for a refund or to cancel their account with you, it’s past the “Event Horizon” of getting them back, you’re only job now is to make their departure as easy as possible to ensure no more friction.

In other words, don’t do this:

Facepalm.

A few things…

  • More work?: They are trying to cancel their account and you are asking them to go back and complete more steps? Leave on friction-less terms — do it for them and let them know that you’ve taken care of everything.
  • Let there be no doubt: Inform the customer that they will be getting a refund and can expect it shortly. This puts the whole situation to bed with no more worries for the customer.

With these tweaks, you should have something much more appropriate:

Your Turn

Now I’m turning things over to you!

Here’s what to do next:

  1. Let me know in the comments what you thought of these methods for improving your email support. Are you going to implement any of them yourself?
  2. If you haven’t already, head on over and download Chase’s full e-book on Writing Better Support Emails, you’ll be glad you did (and so will your customers!).

Thank you for reading, I’ll see you down in the comments!

About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible support ticket system for startups and smallGregory Ciotti businesses who love their customers.

Get more customer loyalty content from Greg on the Help Scout blog, or feel free to check out our free guide on customer profiling, no charge.

  • http://blog.writethat.name/ Brad Patterson @ Kwaga

    Great post with lots of good points. Glad to see that I’m fairly inline with what you all are doing! Cheers, Brad

  • zsofi.m

    Great post, thanks for it! Based on what you presented, I’m happy that I’m on the good path :))

  • http://simontabor.com/ Simon Tabor

    Fantastic post, really handy and quick pointers here. One thing that could be useful is in the cancellation/refunds section there’s no mention of how to handle cancellations where the customer is unreasonably asking for a refund – do you usually just refund them anyway? That’s definitely a tough situation to be dealing with.

    • http://twitter.com/chaseclemons Chase Clemons

      If they ask for a refund, I just do it. The money kept from the customer never outweighs the amount of frustration on their end. Plus, you’ll end up with a person that spreads that refusal to others they know. Not only do you lose that customer, you lose any potential ones they might tell their story to.

  • https://www.fixmycomputerdude.com/ Aliza Carvor

    Gregory excellent information!

    Last 2-3 years back pundits were predicting an end to email but when email campaigning and to support customers using emails then email booming than past and that’s why this post get more importance. Email will modernize and make standard for each field.

    Data management and Maintenance is taking all hold in email campaign. Your guidance will help all how to do better email support. I am started for month ago email support in myfincomputerdude.com and post will navigate me surely.

    Thank You

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    analytics and marketing extraordinaire that he is, he and his team
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    Having access to this 117-102 data and Hiten as a mentor and advisor, has been
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  • http://www.cloudstaff.com/ Dagmar Garrison

    These are great tips in improving email support. Those who are engaged in such are surely grateful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Daniel

    Interesting read!

  • Annie

    This is useful for people who acts like robot in mails. They forget that there has to be a human touch..:)