Don't send a snot-o-gram in haste.

Louella Schooley - Chirp Communications

Sending a snot-o-gram is never a good idea - particularly to a client.

People email businesses to ask questions, to complain and sometimes to compliment. Responding to these emails is imperative to retain customers and build loyalty. But it’s worth spending time considering HOW you respond to these personal messages - sending a snotty email to an annoying customer (it’s ok to admit that some of them are!) maybe there are things that you could do better?

For three years, we have managed customer-facing emails for three global brands. We needed to develop an efficient way to manage these emails. We designed and implemented a “key contact” system to ensure that the right people inside the business received the correct messages - quickly. Our second crucial step was to identify an appropriate tone of voice that matched other business communications.  A manual was written, containing frequently asked questions. This document allows us to be consistent and professional, whilst keeping hold of the businesses key brand values.  Without this, our client was in real danger of falling back into the same pitfalls they had prior to working with us. Yes, it would have been easy to have ignored these steps as time and money had to be invested, however, the client saw the business benefits in a very short time.

In addition to preparing for negative questions, we included responses to positive comments (and we are pleased to say that there are many of these) and made sure to escalate these within the business. This makes the customer, us and our client extremely happy!

We know that customers are keen to get things resolved; politely, calmly and quickly. They do not appreciate being left out in the cold and ignored, and they certainly expect businesses to be consistent. So whilst outsourcing your customer emails may feel like a big step to take, if you’re not reinforcing your brand values with each and every customer interaction taken by all staff members, you are missing a trick.

Rob Aston from (Emphasis Training and Emphasis 360) has published a great article about email etiquette through the Guardian Small Businesses Network. The article covered the basics of what to say to customers over email, how to say it and when.     

Here are Rob’s tips for emailing clients and our experience matches his suggestions:

1.Fail to match the customer’s tone

If someone is informal and friendly in their email, reply in the same tone. After all, if a customer greets you in person with a friendly smile, you reciprocate. Likewise, if they adopt a more formal approach, match it.

Call me sensitive, but I always feel a little knocked back if I address someone with a “Hi [name]” or “Dear …”, only to get a reply starting simply with “Rob”. Email is a hybrid of the memo and the phone call. As such, we’re still not quite sure what conventions to adopt, but politeness should be a given.

How you sign off is equally important , so don’t be in too much of a hurry to add your name and press send. Again, match the customer’s tone and level of formality. “Kind regards” or “Best regards” are both good. But if they’ve written “cheers”, so can you. If you’re writing the first email and you’ve never spoken to the customer before, start off fairly formally – you can always adopt a chattier tone later if they do.

I must admit, I’m puzzled by the rise of signing off with just “Best”. Best what? It makes me wonder what the recipient does with the time they save by leaving their sign-off half finished.

3. Write like a robot

Remember, email is just another way to communicate with a fellow human being. You still need to strive for some kind of connection. Writing an email is a lot more than getting something off your to-do list. It’s a human connection to someone spending their money with you.

4. Write them a novel

Emails that run to three screens seldom get the response the writer wants. At best, they confuse matters; at worst, they’re ignored. Keep to one screen if you can.

In fact, email is not always the best way to communicate complex issues. Next time you find yourself agonising over a message for half an hour, try picking up the phone.

5. Reply in haste (especially if you’re angry)

We’ve all had them: snot-o-grams that a customer appears to have bashed out with their fists. Yet one advantage email has over other forms of communication is that it allows you time to think before responding.

The disadvantages are that it’s permanent and easy to share, so responding in kind to an angry email will seldom end well. It could be all over social media in minutes. Yet it can still be tempting – especially as smartphones allow us to receive such messages at what could be a bad time personally. Resist the temptation and flag the message, close your email or laptop and do something else. Better a slow reply than a quick one that you instantly regret sending.


About Chirp Communicaitons

Chirp will show you the most engaging ways to communicate either internally with your staff or externally with your stakeholders or customers.  If you want to introduce a new product, launch a new concept, share information (such as through blogs) on a regular basis, engage with employees or customers, or respond to queries or complaints, we can help you do this effectively and efficiently.

Contact us and your business will see the results


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