I know a lot about the pressure in a customer support department! I know about the large number of emails, chats and phones an engineer needs to handle! I know how vague customer requests can be. But under all that stress and all that pressure and in that awful race against time, one rule still needs to be complied with: before starting to write the reply to an email inquiry, stop and read the initial message and make sure you understand it.

If it’s vague, ask for details. If you don’t get it, ask a colleague for help (support teams are usually quite tight and help each other a lot). Whatever you do, do not reply to the email when you don’t fully understand it. Don’t rush into sending a reply, just to tick another email off the target when you think you know what the customer is asking.

This all becomes even more important when it takes 2 weeks to send that reply. After two weeks of waiting, your customer expects a decent answer to their question, if not a real solution. If your answer only shows them you’ve schemed through their 5 line email and picked up some keywords, like a robot, then wrote to them and asked them to call a number for more help, they’ll be pissed.

And remember, if you create a web customer care application encouraging them to send emails to your support team, make sure you:

  • take way under 2 weeks to reply
  • if your emails are sent to engineers based on the topic, make sure the person getting them is actually an expert
  • again, say it with me: READ THE EMAIL and make sure you UNDERSTAND it
  • direct them to an alternative means of communication only when you absolutely cannot help them, not to delegate responsibility to someone else.

Customer support is about more than response times, number of emails/phones/chats closed, and other such metrics. It’s about how many customers you’ve actually helped, how many of them feel they no longer have a problem with your product or service. If you don’t have that in mind as a business, no matter how big you are, you will lose them to the competition, as slightly better services and products is not enough to compensate poor customer service for too long.

And if you’re wondering what triggered this, it’s an email reply from one of the two major mobile phone operators in Romania, which came after two weeks and helped with nothing, as they didn’t get anything from what I was writing…Very dissapointing.

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