Riding WAVES to Better Emails

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Writing a great customer service email doesn’t have to be difficult. It really doesn’t. But let’s face it, a quality form with fifteen to twenty things to remember and a bazillion macros (aka canned responses) that we’re supposed to sift through for just the right one probably isn’t helping.

In the past, I’ve implored my colleagues to make personal, authentic connections with customers and steadfastly maintained that it can even be done via email. But after spending countless hours reading email after email, it’s clear that some simple, practical advice to help us focus on on what’s most important is in order.

Actually, before I get started, there’s one more thing. I can already hear my colleagues saying, “Sometimes I have to bear bad news or enforce a policy. No amount of empathetic candy coating will do a lick of good.” My response to that statement is this: there are indeed many situations where you’re absolutely right. Sometimes you will write an incredible response to the customer and they will still be dissatisfied. 

My goal here is to provide some useful tips to help raise our standard of the quality of our email responses. We also absolutely have a responsibility to share feedback with our clients to help them improve their customer experience.

Enter WAVES, FCR’s model for extraordinary customer interactions. Let’s take a moment to look at how to practically apply WAVES to our email responses. For this exercise, let’s use a scenario where a disappointed customer named Bob has contacted us asking why we no longer have any red widgets in stock on our website.

Welcome

The welcome portion of the message includes your greeting, closing, and the overall tone of the message. Here’s an example:

Hi Bob!

Thank you so much for your email. I’m thrilled that you are interested in our widgets!

Notice that I used exclamation points to convey an upbeat and engaging attitude and I stated something positive right from the start. The more you know about the customer, the more you can customize this message to be about them. For example, if they are a new customer, be the first person to welcome them to your company.

Acknowledge

The acknowledgement section of the email is where we address the emotional needs of the customer by using empathy, acknowledging the issue at hand, and then giving them confidence that we will be with them every step of the way until it’s solved. Let’s give that a try:

I’m so sorry that you were unable to find any red widgets on our website. I know how frustrating it can be to not be able to locate the item you really want. I am here to work with you on this to make sure you are able to get a widget you are truly happy with as soon as possible.

Notice that I first apologized to Bob and stated the specific issue he was having. I then empathized by talking about how frustrating it was. Finally, I showed clear willingness to help Bob get the widget he needed.

Verify

The verification section applies in varying levels depending on the customer and situation. This involves ensuring that we verify the customer’s identity before disclosing any information about their account. Let’s say in this example that we need a bit of information to look up the customer. This allows us the opportunity to scan their account for other potential issues and read other notes from our colleagues.  A verification statement might look like this:

I’d like to take a moment to review your account. Can you reply to this email with your order number?

The other component to verification is documentation. Each company will be different but it’s essential to make sure we note the case properly and apply the correct status and tags as needed.

Explore

The exploration is the part of the interaction where we put in the legwork to solve the problem for the customer. This is where we use all of the tools and resources at our disposal to figure out how to get Bob a red widget or find a suitable alternative. Ideally, you’ll come out of the troubleshooting process armed with a two or three options to present to the customer. Let’s move to the solution portion to present them.

Solve

We’ve done as much troubleshooting as we can and while we are waiting to verify Bob’s information, we do know enough to present a couple options to him. This is about making sure we’ve presented a complete, correct, and thorough solution and even aimed to teach the customer a bit in the process. Let’s present something like this:

In the meantime, I was able to investigate this and found out that while we are currently out of red widgets, we are expecting a fresh supply of them next week. Because of this issue, I’m happy to offer you coupon code “FIVEOFF” to get $5 off your next order. If you want, I’d love to help you order a blue or orange widget today or we can wait until next week for a red one. Let me know which of these options you’d prefer.

Our goal with this response is to invite Bob to partner with us on a solution. By presenting him with a couple options, we have done just that.

The Finished Product

Here’s what our completed response looks like:

 

Hi Bob!

Thank you so much for your email. I am thrilled that you are interested in our widgets!

I’m so sorry that you were unable to find any red widgets on our website. I know how frustrating it can be to not be able to locate the item you really want. I am here to work with you on this to make sure you are able to get a widget you are truly happy with as soon as possible.

I’d like to take a moment to review your account. Can you reply to this email with your order number?

In the meantime, I was able to investigate this and found out that while we are currently out of red widgets, we are expecting a fresh supply of them next week. Because of this issue, I’m happy to offer you coupon code “FIVEOFF” to get $5 off your next order. If you want, I’d love to help you order a blue or orange widget today or we can wait until next week for a red one. Let me know which of these options you’d prefer.

I look forward to hearing back from you on this and greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you, Bob. Have a tremendous day!

All the best,

Jeremy

 

Take note here that I went back to the welcome in my last paragraph and wrote a couple closing sentences demonstrating my willingness and desire to work with Bob on solving this issue. I also wished him well and wrapped it up with a custom signature. A good, custom signature like cheers, sincerely, all the best, or a variety of others is a great way to show off your unique personality a bit.

It’s important to note that anyone required to use macros for all or a portion of their email responses should make sure that your response still follows this flow. Applying WAVES to emails definitely takes an intentional effort but with practice can become second nature. Practice constructing your emails in this fashion and you will see improvement to both quality and customer satisfaction scores.

Jeremy-Watkin-Blog-Profile

Jeremy Watkin
Head of Quality
FCR

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Riding WAVES to Better Emails - Customer Service Life
07/15/2016 6:02 am

[…] post originally appeared on the FCR blog on July 5, 2016. Click here to read the […]

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