It's not enough to answer the questions the customer asked in their email. Learn to avoid a write-back by anticipating and answering the customer's follow-up questions, too.
- Writing emails to customers has a real Goldilocks quality. When we're trying to figure out how much to write, we don't want to write too much or too little. We're going for just right. When it comes to writing emails to customers, how much is enough? If we try to keep our emails short and only answer the question the customer asked, we may not give enough information, and the customer might need to write a follow-up. But if we focus on writing emails that are thorough, they may end up being too long, and customers won't read them.
Here's a rule of thumb. You've written enough if you have answered the customer's questions and have anticipated and answered any questions they should have asked. If you only answer the customer's questions and don't anticipate the follow-up, you may cause a second contact. Here's an example. Mark emails your company with a complaint about the most recent version of your scheduling software. He says he doesn't like it very much and asks, "Is it possible to revert to the previous version? "Can I uninstall version 7.1 and go back to version 6.1?" You could reply and say, "Yes, you can go back to using version 6.1.
"You will lose some of the updated features "that 7.1 offers, but 6.1 does still work." So you've answered Mark's question, but your email is incomplete. You need to anticipate and answer Mark's unasked question, "How do I do it?" Without that information, Mark is likely to call or email again. To anticipate the customer's follow-up questions, use what I call the pick another question type method. Here's how it works.
Basic customer questions begin with who, what, when, where, why, how, can I, can you. If the customer asked a who question in his email, choose an appropriate follow-up question from the list, like how. "How do I uninstall 7.1 and reinstall 6.1?" So we can update the email to Mark and add the information to answer his unasked question, "How do I do it?" Let's try this with another email.
In this case, Phyllis has written to ask about enrolling at Rue Academy. She has written to ask a who question. "Who should I meet with?" If you simply answer this who question with, "You should meet with one of our transfer program advisors," you're likely to get another email from Phyllis. To anticipate her next question, choose another question type. In this case, Phyllis is likely to have a how question. A complete email response to Phyllis will answer her question, and it will include information about how to schedule the appointment with the transfer program advisor.
To be thorough, be sure to include contact information. Anticipate and answer follow-up questions, and you'll write effective emails that everyone will appreciate.
- Reading emails carefully
- Anticipating follow-up questions
- Answering all of the customer's questions
- Handling difficult questions
- Explaining your process to the customer
- Paraphrasing the customer's situation
- Acknowledging the customer's feelings
- Apologizing when appropriate
- Avoiding clichéd language
- Demonstrating empathy and sincerity in your writing
- Building rapport