Customer service is arguably one of the toughest departments to be a member of. When customer service is first contacted, very rarely is it with a customer’s intent of sending tidings of thanks or joy. Rather, customer service teams have to tactfully juggle requests and provide answers to complaints. If you’re working in retail customer service you’ll know that your customers have a lot of requests. Retail is almost as much about the shopping experience as it is about the product. Sending customer service emails are a substantial part of this process. Every word you type has a tone that can shape the meaning (and outcome) of the email.
Customer service professionals should possess the skills of patience, product knowledge and tenacity. However, these skills will be left to dry if you don’t teach your staff the most important emailing skill of all: clarity in communication. It’s important to remove any doubt by relaying and presenting information clearly. Strong and clear communication in customer-facing emails associates your brand with a high level of quality service. Here are a few reasons why clear communication is a skill all your customer service professionals need to adopt.
Provide Personality, Even With Email Scripts
Customers want to speak with a human being, not a robot. The staccato electronic pong match between a faceless representative and an upset customer rarely results with a satisfied customer. As Groove explains, email scripts and templates can be an excellent way to enable customer support concepts into action. In layman’s terms, scripts can empower your staff to make the message apparent to its recipient while demonstrating good customer service skills. If you’re working on the support staff for a retailer, you have to deliver clear and accurate information in your emails. Your team can collaborate and share templates catered to different scenarios including discount requests, returns, disgruntled customers or damaged products.
But if you’re copying and pasting scripts into your workflow, you run the risk of de-humanizing your service outreach. Adding personal touches to any email resonates well with its reader. Using your customer’s name provides them with a sense of validation. The message is clear: I am being heard and my needs are being taken care of. When we receive feedback personally tailored to us it shows that as an individual we matter, even to a large retailer.
Working in retail customer service has its shortcomings. When issues arise, odds are you can’t console the customer in person like employees on the floor. Phone and online support are tradeoffs for this. All the more reason why the contents of your email have to be carefully constructed. If you are unable to clearly communicate empathy,
then your customer will be less willing to heed your advice. Lauren Freedman of the E-tailing Group summarizes the notion of support as: “Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.” If you’ve communicated empathy clearly, the odds are in your favor.
“Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.”
Empathy has been used a lot in customer service training, so much so that it seems to be losing its value. As a customer support professional, when you send emails, validate the customer’s frustration through empathy. InMoment suggests creating an empathy map that explores key areas of how customers interact with your brand. The more familiar you become with your customers, the clearer the communication you have when projecting yourself favorably in emails.
Answer Requests to Their Entirety
Email is the best channel to answer customer queries. Phone conversations with customer service are often dreaded because of their hold times and the inability to have a saved copy of the steps forward. Email doesn’t require you to bide time with hold music, nor does it require you to jot down notes. It’s all there, waiting in your inbox. At least it’s supposed to be.
In Eptica’s latest customer experience study, despite the fact that nearly all retailers offer email services, they found that 18 percent of retailers don’t answer customer support emails. Nothing will drive your customers away more than being ignored. However, you also must answer email requests to their entirety. At the core of emailing customer service is a question or request, and when ignored your brand looks incapable and your customer will be just plain annoyed. When fielding emails, keep in mind what’s being asked. Answer each request with clear language. If you find that your email is an information overload, keep it succinct and concise by linking out to an online source.
Reinforce Positive Language
If a customer has emailed your customer service team, then they’ve already associated your brand with some degree of negativity. You can reverse this by infusing your emails with positive language. One of the biggest complaints customers have is that after communicating with customer service professionals they aren’t left with a good feeling about their experience. Training your customer service staff to reinforce positive language can be difficult, but is worth the result. A good way of doing this is to include these in your retail training materials and encourage employees in both customer service and sales to incorporate positive language into their vocabulary.
A good example of this is when Buffer removed the words “actually” and “but” in their customer service emails. Customers felt happier when reading the emails. You can begin incorporating more positive language by flagging negative words used in your emails and replace these with positive words. Combine this practice into your email scripts, and your message’s communication will be clear and its tone will be positive.
Promise Results (Even If You Don’t Have Any)
Customers want some sort of compensation as a result of reaching out for additional support. With typical customer service queries, you usually provide just as typical results like refunds, discounts, returns or exchanges. These results can be tethered into your response template repository. However, some requests are more complex and the answers they require can’t be given with a standard response. Customer service professionals should be trained to handle these results quickly, narrowing the response time window.
The easiest response to situations like these is clear, upfront and simple: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.” Customer service professionals don’t always know the right answer, but showing that you’re in the process of seeking that answer goes a long way. Place this phrase within your response in a natural and comfortable way, making sure to clearly let the customer know that their request is being taken care of. A great customer service team proactively checks in with the customer (not the other way around). This includes telling the customer when they should expect to hear back. Being clear and straightforward on your deliverability is an opportunity to build and gain customers’ trust.
Is clear communication the number one motivator in your retail customer service emails? What are some email training initiatives you’ve experimented with for your customer service team?