What customers want
Response times matter
This factor alone is one of the greatest predictors of customer satisfaction. If the answers are slow in coming, customers lose patience and become dissatisfied, even if the answer is perfect. The responsiveness goal for any support requests is 1h for 75% of requests.
Take the time to get the answer right. Be quick, but not hurried. Double-check everything. Verify the information provided by the customer so that you can be certain you’re working from a correct set of facts. It’s not that customers intend on being deceptive. Sometimes they struggle to clearly describe the difficulty they’re having and the outcome they wish to achieve.
Always assume the best intentions. Always be kind. Even snarky customers can turn into loyal supporters. Customers want to connect with a human being. Be professional but also be yourself.
How to craft great replies
This is a simple but effective pattern for replying to customers.
T-VAD: Tone —Validate. Answer. Direct.
Set the tone. Is the tone of your message warm and empathetic? Or cold and stoic? Or is it simply neutral? You control your tone, and it can go a long way to winning over grumpy customers who achieve success with your advice, delivered with kindness.
Restate the customer’s issue in your own words. Ensuring that you understand the outcome the customer desires saves time and helps you build a positive relationship with them. If you misunderstand their issue, customers are much more forgiving because they see you’ve made a strong effort to understand the difficulty they’re having. This also contributes greatly to customer satisfaction.
Seeking to understand can help validate their feelings. Are they frustrated? Are they worried? Acknowledging these sorts of feelings can help build trust and loyalty.
What is the actual problem? Can it be replicated? What is causing it? How can it be resolved? Taking the time to investigate issues not only broadens your knowledge, but it also gives you a set of facts you can use to craft your response to the customer.
- Use plain language. Be sure to explain each step clearly. If you use an acronym, explain what it means.
- Strive to be complete and accurate. If the answer is actually in the documentation avoid sending only a link; copy and paste the relevant information so that your reader can absorb all the information they need to fix the issue directly from your reply..
- Backup links. Even if you copy and paste the instructions, always send a link to the doc too. If you teach a user about the source of the information, they may be able to help themselves next time.
- Inline images. If possible, use markdown to embed screenshots and screencasts directly in your email replies. This makes it easier for customers to immediately see what you’re describing. Everyone learns differently and sometimes an image can make all the difference.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: what are the next steps they need to take, based on the instructions you’re sharing with them? Customers can become overwhelmed by technical information. They may have the added stress of dealing with their own unhappy customers. Explaining the path(s) forward simplifies the process for them and helps them to feel more at ease. But what if there are no next steps? Letting the customer know that is important too.