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Guide To Creating The Best Customer Service Experience Via Email


Listen to the audio version. 👆

 

Email is one of my favorite places to overdeliver in customer service.


Most customers are used to dry, only somewhat helpful email responses. It makes it so easy to surprise customers.


WHY IT MATTERS:

Fair or not, people will relate how you show up in low-stakes times to how you'll show up in high-stakes times. If you want people to trust their time, money, and resources with you, use email communication to show what it's like to work with you.


WHAT'S NEXT:

Let's dive into:

  • How to write well to avoid awkward miscommunications

  • How to still sound like you and not some Uncanny Valley version of you

  • How to make your emails easier to read so clients actually read what you wrote

  • How to write for accessibility and inclusivity


QUICK REMINDER:

Before we dive deep into this, I want to remind you that you don’t have to be perfect. Try not to overthink this.


I’m sharing a lot here so you can pick and choose things you would like to improve on and then either work on other things later or ignore the rest.


The big-picture goal is to communicate in a way that’s easy for your customers, and that feels authentic.


Writing well

Being able to write well is a true talent that anyone can learn.


If your writing skills aren’t there yet, don’t worry. With a few things to look out for and practice, you’ll get better quickly.


Quality Control

Be sure to check for:

  • Spelling

  • Grammar

  • Run on sentences

  • Sentences that are difficult to read

  • Punctuation


Grammarly is your best friend.


Write at a 9th-grade reading level or below

130 million Americans between 16 and 74 read below a 6th-grade level. Source


Then there’s the rest.


It’s better to write using simpler words and shorter sentences. People prefer to read at or below their reading level.


Even if your customers are super smart, this isn’t the place to manifest your multifaceted expertise through a strategic exhibition of specialized proficiencies.


Another massive reason for this is that many people speak English as a second or third language. While they may be fluent, there still may be things that can be tricky.


Bookmark this page to check how readable your writing is.


Watch for phrases that may have alternate meanings

Certain phrases or words can have alternate meanings in different places.


Especially if you work with international customers, this can be tricky.


Example: "Table a discussion"

In the U.S., it means to delay discussing a topic. However, it means to begin to discuss something in the UK and other Commonwealth countries.


We can see how that’d be a little confusing.


Writing Style & Tone

It seems that people either try to write super professionally or abandon the concept of writing professionally altogether.


There’s a balance to be had. Think of it as Casual Friday dress attire but for writing. You should still appear capable of your job but relaxed.


WHY IT MATTERS:

Working with people requires being able to connect with them. That can be difficult if you try too hard to appear professional. You still want to be human.





As you write, remember your audience. You can often get a feel for their communication style and match their energy.


Did they reach out really excited??!! And use a lot of emojis? 😀 💛 ✨


Or were they very cut and dry? Very straightforward, no-nonsense.


You don’t want to copy it exactly, but it gives you an idea of how much leeway you have in your writing style.


Tone

One of the drawbacks of communicating via email or any other text medium is that we lack additional context - tone of voice and body language.


Lacking those things, there are things we can do in writing to help communicate our tone.


Emojis/Emoticons: 

Emojis can be a great way to help communicate tone, which can often get lost through text. Less is more, generally speaking.


While I’m very pro emoji, beware of misusing them or how others may perceive them. Anything from culture to someone’s generation can affect their interpretation.



!!!!!!!:

Exclamation points are a great way to add energy to an email.


However, depending on the text, that energy can come across as either excited, angry, or unhinged. Use wisely.




Filler words and ellipses: 

When talking, we often use “umm” or “hmm” as we pause to think. Using filler words in writing can convey that you’re unsure or even add sarcasm to a sentiment.


Ellipses (…) are similar. They create pause, can be used sarcastically, and can create drama.


Cursing: 

I’ll never tell you not to curse as a blanket statement. Creatively used curse words bring me deep joy. I’m weird, I know. I think of them like sprinkles on top of a sundae - a delightful topping that can add some color.


I’ll share with you the same rules I’ll teach my son when he gets older, as they apply here:


  • Never curse at someone (You son of a…)

  • Don’t use it to degrade someone (That bitch…)

  • There’s a time and a place.

  • Know your audience.

  • It’s best used to emphasize humor or empathy.

  • Less is more.


Humor: 

Using humor in communication can be a fantastic way to build relationships with people. Similar to cursing, I would keep a few things in mind.


  • Never joke at the expense of someone else.

  • There’s a time and a place.

  • Know your audience.

  • Humor is best used to add value and can be a great way to express empathy.

  • Humor is subjective. I love dark humor myself, but not everyone would appreciate it. So tread carefully.

Slang: 

This area can either aid in building a relationship with a customer or have unintended consequences.


Different cultures and generations have different meanings for slang words.


Example: "That's sick!"

Us 80's-90's kids would use this to mean something was extraordinarily impressive.


2000s kids would use it to share admiration of something.


However, this could also be interpreted as a health issue or something that is gross/disturbing.



Accidentally causing or experiencing anxiety:

As we’ve already discussed, writing in text can lack tone, which makes interpreting intention difficult.


This can lead to either accidentally creating anxiety for a customer or experiencing anxiety based on what a customer said.


Two examples are the use of “k” or 👍.


For some people, they mean okay, got it, or to confirm. There’s nothing more to it than that.


For others, it can seem passive-aggressive or like they’re upset.


If you tend to use these, it’s just something to be aware of. If you're on the receiving end of these, try your best to assume a neutral intent.



Your voice & affectations

You still want to sound like you in your email. It would feel disconcerting to communicate wildly professionally via email but then meet you in person, and you’re this super bubbly wild child.


Then there’s also your brand. The above guidance may not make sense if it doesn’t align with your brand voice. But choices should be made intentionally instead of throwing caution to the wind.


Writing Visually

While we typically read left to right, it’s a little more complex than that.


In short, people will notice the largest text first and then notice color and high-contrast sections.

Knowing this will help you guide your reader’s eye through your email. So even if they skim it, they’ll get the gist.


Line breaks are your friend

Blocks of text are painful to read.


Shoot for 2-3 sentences per paragraph, then add a full line break in between. There should be white space.


Bullet points and lists

Using brief bullet points or lists is a brilliant way to convey steps, ideas, options, and more in a digestible way.


Using emojis as bullet points can be another great way to draw the eye visually to important information.


Headers

Use headers to title a section and help guide your reader’s eye.


Its job is to define what that section is about.





Highlight important information

Bold or use a highlighter feature to help note especially important information. Think of dates and locations typically.


Don’t go crazy here. Less is more.


Adding visuals

Adding visuals is a great way to communicate a point you’re trying to make quickly and more effectively.


Not only that, it can make a BIG impression. Recording a video, for example, is often easier for us but feels more personal for the recipient. To them, it looks like we took more time out of our day to take the personal approach.


Video recordings:


Loom (freemium): Loom is by FAR my favorite tool. I can video record myself answering a more nuanced question or demonstrate how to do something.

Loom Features

  • It’s free to record up to 5 minutes and will save up to 25 videos in the library.

  • It allows people who watch the video to comment, record video responses, and “react” to different parts of your video.

  • There are video editing options available, including removing filler words.

  • It has transcriptions that you can edit.

  • If you upgrade to the paid version, you can record longer.

  • There’s also an AI upgrade where it automatically names the video, the description, creates chapters for easier navigation, and creates to-do items for your viewer.

After you record a video, you can embed a gif of the video in the email to prompt them to watch here. Like this:


Canva (freemium): Canva also has a video/screen recorder option. The really neat thing about Canva is that you can customize the appearance for a more personal approach.


GIFs:

Whether you use pre-made ones to convey tone or create your own to show how to do something, they can be a great way to help people understand things better.




Images


Screenshots: 

Screenshots work well for showing customers how to do something or where something is located. I strongly recommend using arrows and other ways to highlight what you’re trying to show.


If you’re like me and love everything branded to your colors…let it go here. Go with whatever arrow colors make it easiest for people to see.


Nimbus Note (freemium): I love the Chrome extension. It has so many ways for you to capture screenshots


Pre-made images: 

When working with potential and current customers, you may find yourself sharing the same information over and over again. Some information is better communicated in a visual way. Having pre-made, well-designed images at the ready makes a nice addition.


Canva (freemium): Canva is a great place to create visuals that both are easy to understand but fit your brand voice.


Writing for Accessibility

32 million adults in the US have a visual impairment.


The above standards cover a lot of accessibility, but there are a few additional steps we can take.


Font size and type

The best font types are easy to read and also accessible from different software.


Font size varies depending on the font type chosen. Avoid particularly small text as a good rule of thumb.


Best fonts to use:

  • Verdana

  • Arial

  • Helvetica

  • Calibri

  • Century Gothic

  • Times New Roman

  • Tahoma

  • Rockwell


AVOID: handwritten, cursive, very thin/light fonts


Comic Sans gets a lot of hate but has a time and a place.

It’s a childlike font, which is happy and fun but can be challenging to read.

This is best used elsewhere other than email or similar communication mediums.


Going the extra mile

Some email users may be using software to help have their emails read to them. If you’re including an image, having alt text included will help the software communicate what the visual is.


Typically, this is more for websites. However, it is a consideration if you share a graphic like the one below, a meme, a gif, etc.





Writing For Inclusivity

This is not my area of expertise, so I will limit this section until I can find someone more qualified than me to speak on it with authority and up-to-date research behind it.


What I will say is that language matters. How we refer to other people matters. Inclusion matters.


Inclusivity is much broader than people typically think about it. It can refer to:

Age

Socioeconomic status

Work experience & professional background

Race and ethnicity

Disability and accessibility

Body size and appearance

Culture

Family and marital status

Neurodiversity

Gender identity & expression

Educational background

Religion & belief systems

Sexual orientation

Geographic location

Language & communication


I know that seems like a lot, and I know I'm missing some.


However, this is what makes the world we live in so incredibly beautiful.


This isn’t to say that you need to hyper-fixate on every word you use. All this section is about is being thoughtful.


If someone suggests a change to be more inclusive, take it with grace and consider the change.


The difficult thing is that not everyone will have the same preferences, and some people will not care at all. Everyone deserves the respect to be talked to in a way that feels in alignment with who they are.


If you’re unsure about something, seek out groups where the emotional labor of answering questions is welcomed.


Do your best. When people see you making the effort, it’ll be greatly appreciated. Even if you make mistakes.


The Wow Factors

Getting responses like this:

An email response from a customer that said, "Amber, you are a legend for recording that personal Loom walk-through. I could still follow even without the audio. (And it only took me 13 days since you responded to watch it!) In all seriousness, though, thank you for over-delivering here. Uncommon and memorable support experience. Perhaps the most comprehensive I have ever received, especially given the simplicity of the inquiry."
The customer was floored even with the audio not working in the video.

Gives you the flood of dopamine and oxytocin that fuels you through the rest of your day. 🥰

There are a few very simple things you can do to create feelings like this for your customers.


Use your customer’s name

It grabs their attention, boosts your likability, and makes you look empathetic and caring.


Embed links

If you refer someone to somewhere, grab the link and embed it. Saving customers' time and frustration is always a wow moment.


As a bonus, bold the link to make it visually easier to see.


Get ahead of the next potential problem

Customers or leads will ask for your help to solve a problem.


Once you solve that problem, they may run into another situation or have questions.


The customer reached out because they were having login issues. I noticed they had an older account and got ahead of the next potential issues he would run into.


Help with research

If you see an opportunity to save a customer time by doing some quick research for them and distilling it into a quick, bite-sized piece of information…holy cow, they will love you!




THE TAKEAWAY:

Great communication is a win-win and is worth the effort.


For customers: It creates trust, value, and makes their lives easier.


For you: It helps create more loyal customers, can help turn leads into customers, get people to follow through on tasks that need to be done, and saves you time in the long run.


DIG DEEPER:

If you want to learn to communicate more effectively, check out the book Smart Brevity.


You'll see a lot of my writing uses practices from there, such as axioms like "DIG DEEPER" and "WHY THIS MATTERS."



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