Great communication is an art. Honing it to a keen edge is a science.
What does “thoughtful” communication mean when you’re talking to a customer? What’s the strategy behind successful conversations?
World-class customer service begins with treating humans like humans. Follow the tips in this guide:
Part 1 – Maintaining a Consistent Tone
Just as in music, if your tone is off, the whole piece falls flat. For example, “Anything else?” and “What else can I help you with?” ask the same question, but they are wildly different in terms of tone.
- Think of tone on a spectrum
One is clearly sliding into bitter-sounding territory, while the other feels friendly but still professional. That’s where you’ll want to be for the large majority of customer interactions.
2. Use Positive Language
Positive language keeps the conversation moving forward and prevents accidental conflicts due to miscommunication. Words like can’t, won’t, and didn’t and phrases like “you have to” or “you need to” are usually interpreted as negative.
Focus on how you’re going to fix the problem, and avoid words that cause knee-jerk reactions
☒ Bad: “No, we don’t have that.”
☒ Less bad: “I can see how that would be useful, but I’m afraid we don’t have plans to add that functionality.”
☑ Good: “While there’s currently no way to do that, we appreciate you taking the time to let us know what you’re looking for — most of the improvements we make come from ideas and suggestions like yours, so thank you for reaching out!”
Say one of your products is back ordered for a month and you need to relay this information to a customer immediately. Consider the following responses:
✘ With negative language
“I can’t get you that product until next month; it’s back ordered and unavailable at this time. You’ll have to wait a few weeks, but I’m happy to place the order for you right now!”
✔ With positive language
“It looks like that product will be re-stocked and available next month. I can place the order for you right now and we’ll make sure it’s sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!”
Customers don’t care about what you can’t do; they want to hear what’s going to be done.
3. Be brief but not brusque – Keep both sentences and paragraphs short. Large blocks of text will get skipped right over. Use images, videos, and links to knowledge base articles to keep your replies concise.
4. Reply in a timely manner – Customers who are in a “pulling my hair out” situation want a resolution yesterday. Make responding to them a priority.
Try setting up a folder separate from the main support queue where you can filter less-than-ecstatic messages. Here, the team can see immediately which emails are from customers who need help right away.
5. Always use your customer’s name
6. Talk their talk – Mirroring your customer’s tone lets them know you’re on their side. If a customer is formal, for example, hold back on the LOLs. If they’re more casual, relax your tone, too. Adjust based on the tone of the customer’s email. If they’re clearly angry, don’t be a chipper do-gooder — take it down a notch. If they’re excited about something, bring the energy.
7. Build templates for saved replies
8. Give directions chronologically – When you really do need a customer to carry out a lengthy set of instructions on their own, use numbers or bullet points. Say, for instance, you need the customer to perform a traceroute to help you troubleshoot why a certain page is loading slowly, and you’ve already exhausted the other possibilities:
9. Offer to help further – “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. I’m happy to help.”
10. Steer clear of customer service clichés – Example: “Hi Angela, I’m going to introduce you to Tim, our customer success specialist who will be better able to answer your question!”
11. Talk to your customers like people – Be friendly, personable, and casual. A follow-up email like this works better:
Thanks for your order with us! This is an automatic email just to let you know I’ve received your email. I’ll get you an answer shortly.
Be friendly, personable, and casual. A follow-up email like this works better:
12. End on a high note! Make sure you always get to a place where, “Yes, I’m all set!” rings loud and clear. Try ending your conversation with a phrase like this;
Excellent! I’m glad we were able to get that sorted out for you. Before you go, is there anything else I can assist you with today? I’m happy to help.”