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HomePatterns > How to answer customer email > Start off by recognizing what they said



Go beyond quote-back

Deliberately express sympathy and interest

Start off by recognizing what they said

Your consumer is still a bit suspicious, even after deciding to open your email.  You have  gotten past the dangerous zone, the subject line.  Now what are you going to say?

To capture attention right away, begin your message by writing a sentence that includes some of the language the customer used.

Go beyond quote-back

Don't just quote back: that's too mechanical.

Acknowledge what they have said.

Echo what they have said. Carl Rogers, the psychologist, insisted that a shrink echo back to the patient what the patient just said, without criticizing. Be a Rogerian.

Think about what they said, and apologize for the difficulty, taking care to show you have actually listened to their representation of the problem.

If the customers have sent nasty, snotty, vicious, or stupid messages, make the effort to put yourself in their position. Try to understand how your site could have provoked such a reaction.

Of course, some folks are just jerks, and no amount of empathy will make you respect them.

And if you come up with a hilarious response--you know, some smart-aleck comment--tell your neighbor, but resist typing it into your response. Snappy put-downs have a way of turning an irritated customer into a militant adversary.


E-mail responses to customers, chapter from Hot Text, Web Writing that Works (PDF, 995K, or about 18 minutes at 56K)

Deliberately express sympathy and interest

Your job's to help, not poke a customer with a stick.

So, within the constraints of your job, dare to say that you are sorry, that you are concerned, that you care.

Even if you are talking about a technical subject, indulge in a little enthusiasm, too, if you can manage it. But don't just throw in a few exclamation points.

Real interest shows in nouns and verbs--not smarmy adjectives, and oily adverbs.

And never, never go ALL CAPS. That's shouting in your reader's ear.

Alas, most businesses discourage the use of emoticons, that wonderful iconic language indicating the tone of voice. L

Your task, then, is to show some human emotion.  If you can't be sympatico, most of the time, you have no business answering customer emails.

The three components of a good opening in an email response to a customer

I'm hoping you get back to me soon, before this bug crawls all over me.


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