If you run any business online, then the way you communicate with your customers is crucial.
In the world of the typed word, emotions can be easily misinterpreted, and messages can be misunderstood.
I will list my key principles for communicating with customers below, but let’s consider this mantra first:
“The customer is always right.”
If my customer says they can’t access their account, but our logs show they have logged in, they’re not right.
If we twist the mantra a little to “Always make the customer right,” we can give ourselves a better chance of winning them over.
Here is how I would answer the customer who says they haven’t logged in, but our records show they have:
I am sorry that you haven’t been able to login into your account. We are happy to have you on board with FreshStore and are excited to help you get started.
We have checked our logs and there was a login to your account at 23:12 on 3rd January 2023, so we have reset your password for security.
Please use the link sent in a separate email to choose a new password and login. If you can’t find this email please check your spam folder.
I will monitor your account over the next few days to make sure you have been able to login and will follow up if needed.
Please let me know if there is anything else I can help with, and I recommend the following quick video that will help you build your first store: <LINK>
In this reply, I did not directly say that the customer had logged in, and instead, I focused on getting him logged into the account.
The response also aims to make the customer feel wanted (because they are), feel important (because they are) and show respect to them (because they deserve it).
My Rules for Talking to Customers
1) Always be polite
I follow this rule in life but online, it is especially important. It is easy to skip off a “please” or a “thank you”, but if you do, then you run the risk of your messages being interpreted the wrong way.
2) Be formal.. or at least be grammatically correct
I like to be mostly formal in all messages to customers. When I do this, I find that my words are taken more seriously, and I am less likely to receive an emotion-driven response.
It shows that you are professional, you take this seriously, and you are to be trusted.
Your method might differ, and less formal communication can be congruent with your business/marketing message. However, I do recommend you at least be grammatically correct.
It also helps to use a proper greeting and sign-off. It shows your recipient that you are taking the time over the message and taking it seriously.
3) They are not as smart as you
This is not an insult; it is (or should be) a fact.
If you are offering a service to your customer, then it is expected that you know more than them. You are the expert in this situation. They are going to do or say things that seem ridiculous to you.
These “stupid” things are going to be repeated over and over again with your other customers, but they are not stupid. They simply don’t have the experience yet.
My message here is simple but very important; stay calm, stay patient and remember that they don’t have the luxury of being as smart as you in this situation.
4) Don’t get emotionally involved
Especially where support or disputes are involved. Getting emotionally involved is bad for you and your customers.
Deal with every problem and dispute in a calm, methodical and efficient way.
If your recipient is completely unreasonable, then don’t break character. Keep your messages concise, polite, unemotional and to the point. For example:
“I have been waiting 8 months for you to add this feature and now you are telling me it won’t be in the next version?? What kind of joke operation are you running? Honestly, I have bought more products than I can remember and this is the ABSOLUTE WORST I have come across. Your last version was utter crap and crashed my PC and if I hadn’t spent the money on your junk then I would have bought (COMPETITOR) a long time ago….. etc. etc.”
You might want to say:
“Your feature idea is absolutely ridiculous and wouldn’t benefit anyone except yourself. We are not here to be your personal developers. The only reason your PC crashed is because of the spyware you caught from porn sites. Go and use (COMPETITOR) instead and don’t come back crying to us when it isn’t as good”
What you should say:
I am really sorry to hear that you are not happy, and I want to do everything I can to help you out.
Unfortunately, we develop new features based on requests from other members and, at the moment, your feature request didn’t get as enough requests as others.
We completely respect your decision to use (COMPETITOR) if you choose, but I would like to help you figure out how to achieve what you want to with our software.
What is it exactly that you would like to do? I will hopefully find a better way for you to do it or look at how your feature request can be modified to benefit everyone.
It might seem easier said than done, but maintaining this level of control will result in far more customers ending up happy.
Try it, and you may sleep a little better at night.
5) You are not friends
Ok, you might become friends with your customers (I have), but that is a rare exception.
“How are you doing?”, “Did your wife get that job?”, “What about the football last night huh?”.. it seems like harmless chit-chat, but it wastes time.
It means that you and/or your customer will put off responding because you have somehow created an unwritten chit-chat rule that can’t be broken.
Again, this might be congruent to your marketing strategy… but be aware that it can also come across as you being sleazy and fake to get a sale.
6) Make sure your customers know what to expect
Set your stall out early in what your customer should expect regarding response times.
In a support desk, this is crucial. In some companies, 24 to 48 hours is normal. In others, you can get under 1-hour responses.
Your customers will generally expect short response times unless you tell them.
Try to be consistent with pre-sale and support responses. If you are helping a customer make a purchase with 20-minute replies, they will be upset if they pay and now have to wait 24 hours to get a support reply.
7) Stick to your rules
We need to set rules for how communication is made so that it is handled efficiently.
If your customer somehow finds you on Skype and asks you a simple question, should you respond?
They will do it again next time. Then your Skype will be off, they won’t get a response, and they will be mad.
Keep all communication through your official channel(s), so you can optimize it, scale it, outsource it and automate it.
After over thirteen years of supporting software and hosting customers, plus over 20 years of general supporting customers in the software industry, I realised (eventually) that communication makes a BIG difference.
Monitor it, change it, tweak it and make it better.
It will make your life easier, it will make you happier in general, and it will make you more confident to teach this to others in your business.