Written by Ian Landsman on Feb 3, 2015 in

The Exclamation Point

Most of the customer support we do these days takes place through email. While email has many amazing traits, properly conveying meanings and emotions is certainly not one of them. This tends to be especially true in a support context. As members of the help desk team, we’re often under pressure to respond quickly and effectively to customers. Unlike someone writing a personal letter or report, we don’t usually have time for a lot of reflection. We should make time, of course, but alas the reality of a busy Monday morning tends to dictate otherwise. So what can we do instead to ensure our sincere response is read in the context and light it was meant? How can we still convey our passion and eagerness to the customer without getting into a lot of fluffery? I present to you: the exclamation point! In support email where we’re often trying to keep things short for both ourselves and the customers, the exclamation point can work absolute wonders. Just that little bit of sentence-ending punctuation can convey everything we need to. It replaces entire paragraphs and lets us cut right to the chase on the customer’s question. Let’s look at a few ways to use this powerful member of the customer support toolshed. Perhaps a customer has asked us:

Can I configure the widget to do XYZ?

We might normally respond with:

Yes. First go to 123 and then set ABC. Sincerly, Bob

Not horrible, but a bit dry. Customer support isn’t just helping people; it’s sales. It’s marketing. Many times it’s the only interaction customers have with the company making the product. I find reworking that reply with an exclamation point to be a big improvement:

Yes! First go to 123 and then set ABC. Sincerely, Bob

Sure, it’s subtle. But if you really try to read it with the fresh eyes of the customer, the difference in tone is remarkable. The exclamation point takes the sentence from a dispassionate but workable reply to a statement about the company itself. We’re EXCITED to be talking to you. Not only that, but we’re thrilled to have a positive response to your question so you can succeed in using our product. Am I overstating it? I don’t think so!! ;) How about using the exclamation point on the way out of the conversation:

… After configuring the photon torpedo, just fire away. If there’s anything else you need, please let us know. Thanks! Ian

I like it here a lot as well. It’s a way to happily close out the interaction and lower the formality level a bit. It also works well with thanks at the beginning of a reply. A good example is when you’re responding to a customer’s issue after they answered a series of questions you sent to gather more details. In that case, let’s let them know we appreciate their complete reply:

Thanks Tina! Now that I have all the info, I think this is the issue…

Finally, it’s always nice to use them in the normal manner: inline to express emphasis or urgency.

When traveling using the flux capacitor, bringing extra fuel is absolutely critical! Without it, you’ll be stranded in the past.

Remember, there’s a time and place for exclamation points. If you have a chance, you might want to watch these two clips that make the point nicely. Enjoy!

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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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