Every email you receive from your customers is a gift and it should be treated as such. They don’t have to contact you. The fact that they are taking time out of their day (time that they will never get back) to tell you how your product can be better is a gift in itself. Your responses should have a consistent tone of appreciation of this gift. In a perfect world, all of the requests from our customers would be clear, to the point, and free of emotions. Unfortunately we are not in a perfect world so it is important for your employees understand how to decode what a customer is really trying to tell you. This type of thinking needs to come from the top down in order for it to be adopted by the entire team and it has to be repeated often until it becomes part of your culture.
Customer emails include tons of fluff, emotions, and can be a bit wordy. Because of this your team can easily get distracted and lose touch and the opportunity that sits in front of them. It is important to consistently train your team to understand why a customer is contacting you. Here are a few examples that may help:
“I want to give you my money, but I don’t understand how. Can you please help me?”
It is a pretty bold statement and you may never see it verbatim but that is what most of your customers are trying to tell you when they contact you. If a request like this is not obvious, it is helpful to put yourself in the author’s shoe as they were writing it and ask yourself what they were trying to achieve when writing their email. Not everyone gets to the point and you may have to sort through a long email to get the gist of it but the main takeaway is that your customers are trying to give you money but are not sure how to do that. If you respond with this grateful tone, your customer will feel validated in giving you that money.
“I love your products but they would work so much better for me if you added “X” feature.”
This one is tricky because you can get trapped in a rabbit hole if you are not careful. That being said, if you trained your customer service team to handle these requests properly, and had them current on the company sprints and company direction, you can free up random requests in your JIRA queue and get some real gems from the people who are paying to use your product. It can be a slippery slope to deflect requests that will not serve your company short or long term because you don’t want to hurt anyones feelings and you want to avoid discouraging feedback. So how to navigate this? Be honest. Candor can go a long way with your customers (and employees). “Thanks Joe Blow for bringing that up. Our Product Team has had that feature on the road map since last June but scrapped it in favor of “X” feature which accomplishes “Y” and also “Z.” A clever and honest response may take a bit more time than a regular macro but it pales in comparison to tying up your JIRA queue with another request that will die a slow death. Be honest and tactful with your customers, they will respect you for it.
“I like your product, but it just doesn’t work for me”
These can be one of the most difficult emails to handle for your customer service team. Most people who work in customer support are empathetic and their DNA wants them to solve every problem and they feel an emptiness when they are not able to help. The truth is that your product is not going to work for everyone. When your customers come to this realization, they are frustrated, stressed and sad because they initially thought they found a solution but for whatever reason your product is not it. Chances are these requests will be “spicy” and likely will have a negative tone. Once you have come to the conclusion that your product is not the right fit for them you need to help them so they do not feel like they wasted their time. Your goal should be to leave your product/company with a good taste in their mouth. While your product may have not worked for them, it will work for someone they know and your handling of this exit will increase your chances at acquiring a customer or two from their departure. How to accomplish this? One way would be to understand what they were trying to accomplish with your product and where your product fell short. Then you can make suggestions on other products that may be a better fit. Again, this can be a slippery slope so you need to put on your kid gloves and make sure your communication comes across in a genuine way. For example, “Thanks for giving us a try, we really appreciate your time invested. While our platform may not be the best solution for you, have you considered “X” product? They have “X” feature which checks all of the boxes you are after and if you sign up at this link you will get a free trial. If you do deicide to give that a try, let us know if it is a viable option so we can continue to refer others (or not). If you happen to know of anyone else who may be a good fit for our platform we sincerely appreciate your referral.”
Treat your customers requests for what they are, a gift. They are trying to make you better. Listen to them. Decode what they are really trying to tell you and give them what they want so you can get what you want.