Business should be personal, even when it's conducted online. So, when you offer support, don't treat queries as mere "tickets"; that's just wrong. Customers should never feel like a number in a long list. Instead, they should feel as if they're involved in a one-on-one conversation.
This means that your customer support staff will have to respond quickly, personally and pro-actively, even though these actions may feel difficult for your company. Here are some tips to help.
1. Respond immediately, even if you don't have the solution.
When you receive a request for support and know you can't provide a solution right away, write a quick, personalized response acknowledging the request and saying that you're working on it. An immediate, automated response from your ticketing system is not good enough here; we all know how those feel: “Great! I’m now a number in a long list!”
Auto-generated responses can actually reduce our confidence that a human is looking after our issue. In contrast, a quick reply takes 20 seconds to write and buys you time as well as your customers’ confidence.
2. You're human and so are your customers. So, talk like one.
You want to sound friendly, natural and personal. This means addressing customers by their first names, asking how they are and perhaps commenting on something outside the issue -- like the weather in their city, for example. The great thing is, your customers will more than likely mirror your tone.
If you're being friendly and reasonable, your customers will, too. If you maintain this tone all the time, even after the issue is resolved, your customers will feel more comfortable asking for help or providing feedback in the future. Talking like a human will even help you retain customers.
3. Always personalize your response.
Every situation is different, so each customer needs a message individually tailored just for him or her. Stock answers, in contrast, are easy to spot and make you look bad. And using saved replies makes sense only when you find that you're answering the same questions again and again. Instead, always personalize your response, even slightly, to the specific customer and occasion.
4. Explain things in multiple ways.
Different things resonate with different people. So, be prepared to explain the same thing in a number of different ways, such as, with a list; or with a .gif; or with a reference to your documentation; or even a chat via Skype or the phone. Then, keep trying until you've solved the problem. As we’ve said before, "Stop wasting time telling people where to click and start showing them."
5. Communicate using emoji.
Communicating via emoji and stickers is often faster, richer and more expressive than via text. Use emoji in your support activities where appropriate. Your customers will be familiar with them and will appreciate that the conversation isn’t too formal.
6. Never assume anything.
One of the main challenges of modern support is talking tech with non-tech people. When you're replying to a customer, never assume anyone is tech savvy. Likewise, never assume anyone knows nothing at all. Either assumption can come across as disrespectful or arrogant. You need to strike the right balance and pitch your reply at the right level.
7. Be realistic. Don't overpromise.
Always be honest about what you can and can't do for your customers. Overpromising will lead to your under-delivering, which makes you look bad and makes your customers unhappy. If a feature on your product is broken, acknowledge that and apologize. If you screw up, admit it and work toward making things right. This kind of transparency feels real. And over time it will lead to solid trust and respect from your customers -- that's invaluable. It also leaves you in a position to surprise and delight when you've got something great to share.
8. It's never the customer's fault . . . ever!
If your customer can't use the product you built, it's your fault -- always. That's the attitude you need to take when you're dealing with someone who finds a particular feature confusing. You should apologize that it's confusing, explain what you think might help and ask the person's opinion on how to make it better.
9. Think like the customer -- be proactive with your response
When a customer asks you a question like, "Where do I go to set up a new email to my customers?" you have to appreciate that that question actually lives inside a workflow of questions. It's going to be followed by questions like, "Can I use my own theme or templates?"; "Can I change the 'from' address?"; "How will I see my results?"; and many other questions.
So, when you answer the customer's initial question, don't answer the question that's been asked. Also include answers to some of the follow-up questions you know are inevitably going to come next.
10. Offer an 'invitational' exit.
Always end support messages by inviting your customers to ask more questions and to let you know if they feel their issues haven't been resolved. The last thing you want them to feel is that they're being shut down and that you don't have time for them.
Hopefully, these tips will help you be more personal in your customer support interactions, and develop better long-term customer relationships. If this concept appeals to you, dive down the rabbit hole and check out how we support our customers at Intercom.