Other areas of business and effective e-mail communication (2)

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By Goke Ilesanmi

Last week, we said another area worthy of note in effective email communication is e-mail and job application. We said before you even conceive the idea of sending an email cover letter, you need to first make sure that you understand all the rules and guidelines for writing a dynamic cover letter. Also, we examined halfway, the concept of replying an e-mail from your angry customers and discussed some of the guidelines. This week, we will discuss more.


     The next tip is to ask for clarification. This is necessary because there is every tendency that angry customers may not write clearly. An angry customer may be unskilled or his e-mail may have degenerated into a rant about the company rather than an explanation of the problem. So you may have to ask the customer to clarify the problem, e.g. “We need additional information for us to be able to solve your problem with the replacement parts for your …. Were the parts you received broken, or did you receive the wrong parts?”

Rudick and O’Flahavan say you may also have to clarify how the customer would like the problem resolved., e.g.“Do you want us to … or do you want a refund?” Unless you clearly understand the problem and the preferred solution, you are bound to even worsen the situation.

Personalising your response: You need to personalise your response. Research shows that nothing infuriates an angry customer more than the feeling that no one is listening. Instead of “Dear customer, thank you for your e-mail. We take our customers’ problems seriously and are glad to hear from you”, personalise your e-mail to an angry customer to reassure him or her that he or she is being heard loud and clear by using the customer’s name and title, e.g. Mr…, Mrs…, Ms… in place of the word “customer”.

Review the customer’s account information and incorporate it into your response. “We appreciate that you have chosen us as your … for the last … years, and we would like the opportunity to keep you as a satisfied customer.” Sign your e-mail because an angry customer needs to know a real human is trying to solve his problem.

Specification and good news: Another tip is to tell the customer how you will respond to the problem. Angry people want action, so you must specifically explain how you will resolve the problem. If the resolution is complicated, outline the steps you will take. If possible, tell the customer when actions will commence.

Experts say another strategy is that if you have good news, put it first. If you can make the customer happy, put the good news first and the empathy second:

Good news: “We want to notify you that we have refunded your money as requested.”

Empathy: “We understand the frustration of receiving the goods in bad condition.”

But if you cannot make the customer happy—if you have to tell the customer No—put the empathy first and the “bad news” second:

Empathy: “We understand the frustration of receiving the goods in bad condition.”

Bad news: “We cannot refund your money because you ordered the goods after our guaranteed shipping date.”


Politeness: This is another tactic. Avoid scolding the customers. It is better to emphasise the pronouns “I” and “We” rather than “You”. That is, try as much as possible to sound courteous and impersonal. That is, do not write: “Your order was not filled because you did not include your mailing address on the order form.” Instead write: “We did not fill your order because we did not have your mailing address.”

Hard work: Answering angry e-mails is hard work. And unlike when you resolve a problem for a customer on the phone, e-mail does not give you the chance to hear the relief in the customer’s voice or experience, in real time, the gratification of turning the customer’s anger into appreciation. Your satisfaction may come from keeping problems from escalating out of control.

Customer service e-mail: An excellent customer service e-mail does more than answer  a customer’s questions; it solves the customer’s problem, and makes the customer feel valued. What differentiates “adequate” customer service e-mail from “excellent” customer service e-mail?

Rudick and Leslie say,We’ve analysed hundreds of customer service e-mails and we’ve found that many companies do an adequate job of responding promptly, within 24 – 48 hours. And some companies do a good job of answering the customer’s question. So, what more could customers want?”

To answer the question, customers want and deserve excellent e-mail responses. An excellent customer service e-mail exhibits two qualities that sets it above adequate. First, it does not merely answer the customer’s question — it solves the customer’s problem. Second, it makes the customer feel valued.

The companies that provide these excellent responses recognise that customer service e-mail should be used for more than answering customer questions. A customer service e-mail is a powerful marketing tool, an effective form of permission-based marketing. Excellent customer service e-mail solves the customer’s problem.



An excellent e-mail anticipates what else the customer needs to know. An adequate e-mail merely responds or answers a customer’s question without actually offering any satisfactory solution. Solving a customer’s problem in a phone call can be easier than in an e-mail. In a phone conversation, the customer asks follow-up and “what if” questions to get more information that will solve the problem. However, in answering an e-mail query, the customer service representative has to anticipate the follow-up questions that the customer would ask and supply the answers.

  PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.

GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: gokeiles2010@gmail.com

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng

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