Learn to read customers' emails critically so you can write a complete response. Critical reading means you can figure out what the customer is asking, not just what they said. Critical reading is key to first contact resolution.
- Wouldn't it be great if our customers wrote perfect e-mails, if every one they sent was concise, understandable, and well written? Think of how quickly and well we could reply. Yeah, that's a fantasy. The fact is, many of our customers don't write very well. Their spelling is bad, their grammar is awful, and they can't ask their questions clearly. That's why we need great reading skills. We need to read e-mails carefully to understand what our customers really want, and to know how to help them.
That kind of between-the-lines reading is called critical reading. Critical reading is the ability to understand what the customer is really asking, not just what they said. There are a couple of reasons why critical reading is a challenge when you work in customer service. First, you're reading in a production environment. Answering e-mails in a queue is kind of like working in an e-mail factory. E-mails just keep coming on the conveyor belt one after another all day long, and it's hard to bring fresh and focused reading skills to each e-mail, because customers write about the same things over and over and over.
It's easy to tune out when you're reading the fifteenth e-mail on the same topic. But critical reading is essential to first contact resolution. If your manager wants you to write one and done e-mails and head off a second customer contact, you'll need excellent critical reading skills to reply to what the customer is asking or should have asked. Critical reading involves a type of mental gymnastics. You start by reading the customer's e-mail, and you ask yourself, "What are they really asking?" Or, "What should they be asking?" Then you make a mental list.
For example, let's say you work for an insurance company and the customer e-mails you to ask about changing the name on her policy. Use your critical reading skills. Jennifer is telling you that she changed her name and she moved, but what is she really asking you? Literally, she asked, "Do I need to update "my insurance policy with my new name?" She also implied other questions, but she did not ask them explicitly. Using our critical reading skills, we can make a mental list of Jennifer's other questions.
Do I need to update my insurance policy with my new name? If so, how do I do that? How do I prove my new name: How long will it take to update my policy? How will I know my name has been updated on the policy? Use critical reading skills to reveal all the customer's questions and write a complete response. Here's how we might reply to Jennifer. You can see that we've answered her direct question, and we've provided answers to the followup questions on our mental list.
We've given her more information than she originally asked for. By reading critically, we've saved ourselves the need to respond to additional e-mails, and we've served the customer. So take the time to read between the lines to anticipate and answer followup questions. Your boss will appreciate your initiative, and so will your customer.
- 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