Written by Ian Landsman on Apr 10, 2018 in

Providing Excellent Customer Support: Tips for Responding to Customer Emails

In our “Providing Excellent Customer Support” mini-series, we’re covering three key times you must dedicate yourself to prioritizing great customer service: before you launch your product, after you launch your product, and as you scale your team to handle company growth. Our first post covered “How to Set Up Your Help Site.”

Today, we continue with one more “before launch” priority: preparing to manage customer support through email.

Now that your help site is set up, many of your customers will find the answers to questions they have without needing to contact you. However, many will still need to get in touch with you, and email is likely to be a popular way they choose to do so.

Let’s go through a few quick tips to help you manage your customer support emails.

Keep Track of How Customers are Contacting You

Your website will have a contact link or form, providing an easy and direct way to get in touch with you.

However, you may also have generic email addresses that customers track down and use, whether those addresses were intended for customer support inquiries or not (for example: info@yourcompany.com, hello@yourcompany.com, sales@yourcompany.com, or email@yourcompany.com).

Make sure you’re managing and monitoring all email inboxes so that customer support questions get rerouted to the appropriate inbox and are efficiently resolved.

Use Labels to Stay Organized

You don’t need fancy app to run support--a shared email inbox will do the trick just fine. Gmail is a popular option, but you can use any email tool as long as it has the option to use labels and filters.

Why labels? Labels are great for grouping together feature requests, bugs, or any other natural groupings that you come across. When you begin having many customer emails to sort through, you’ll find it easier to track down inquiries of a certain type if you consistently label these emails as you receive them.

Below are a few ideas to help you start thinking about what labels you might want:

  • Feature requests
  • Product/service bugs
  • Website/check-out bugs
  • Billing questions
  • How-to questions

Make sure to only start with a handful of labels. Too many, and you risk having as many custom labels as you do customer inquiries--and that’s not helpful at all!

Agree on a set list of labels you want to start with, and make sure any customer service representatives with access to customer support emails use only these agreed-upon labels.

Use a Snippet Tool

“Snippets” are bits of text you can insert into an email over and over with only a few keystrokes. A popular tool for creating snippets is TextExpander, which is both easy-to-use and affordable. With TextExpander, it’s easy to organize snippets into folders, and access them for all sorts of use cases.

How much you use the snippet tool is up to you. I use it for any phrase that might be repeated. For instance, here are a few I’ve set up and use on almost every email:

Hi {{name},

Simple, right? This one is for opening the email. People have a name, and you’re always going to start by saying hi to them. This minor detail goes a long way in showing that you know who they are and that you’re there to help them personally.

If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’ll be happy to help. Have a great day!

- Ian

This one’s for closing the email. Short and sweet, but it lets your customer know you’re always there when they need you.

Those two snippets alone will save you a ton of time. You can add to your snippets once you begin identifying more phrases you find yourself writing repeatedly.

Watch Out for Buzzwords, Over-Explaining, and Promises

As you begin to respond to customer emails (or potential customers’!), be mindful of what wording you use.

Don’t use corporate buzzwords or other lingo when talking with customers. People emailing you with questions don’t want responses they have to translate or decipher to understand. Speak in simple, plain language that helps your customers without causing any further frustration.

Product launches always turn up a few bugs and other troubles. If a customer runs into a bug, just say you’re sorry like this:

“I’m so sorry for that trouble! I found the bug and just went live with a fix for it. It should be good to go - please let me know if you run into any further issues. Thanks for letting us know about this.”

Don’t go into what the bug was, why the bug wasn’t caught before, or even what steps you took to fix the bug. Customers just want to know the problem is solved, that you’re sorry it happened, and that you appreciate their outreach.

When a feature request comes in, be care not to over-promise.

“Thanks for sharing that idea! I can definitely see where that would help out, and want to keep this in mind. I can’t make any promises at this time, but I’ll definitely bring it to our product team for further consideration.”

Combine those bug and feature request responses with the opening and closing we went over before, and you have a solid email reply.

You’re Ready for Launch!

You’ve set up your help site, complete with a frequently-asked questions (FAQ) page, and you’re prepared to address additional questions through email. With these in place, you’ve laid a foundation for customer support that shows you’re interested in helping customers and accessible. Congratulations, and good luck!

In our next post in this series, we’ll cover how and when to expand your customer support channels--without stretching yourself too thin.

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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