The Nice Guide to Nice Replies: Writing the perfect support email
We’ve seen a lot of ratings over the years — and gotten a few ourselves! Every one of our customers has a different style, different customer personas and completely different ways of making their customer happy. No one has been to customer support school to learn how to do this job, but we all have our own tricks of the trade. It’s made us think: is there a perfect way to write a Nice Reply when a support email arrives?
While not all nice replies are created equally, we do think there’s a few key tips to writing the best support email replies. Here’s 10 examples of how you can get the most out of your support replies:
1. Tone matching
Have you ever been told to “read the room” when telling a joke? Tone matching in a support email is like that. If a customer is casual, makes jokes and uses smiley faces liberally — you’re likely welcome to do the same.
If the customer is irate or overly formal, it might not be the best place to use your favorite cat gif. There’s a time and place for everything.
I’m having the hardest time creating a new account for my new employee. I keep getting an error message, and I’m sure the problem probably is coming from my side (I’m the worst at tech!) but can you help me out?
Thanks for writing in, happy to help. I know that feeling — sometimes it feels like the computers are all conspiring against us. :)
It looks like you’ve got one too many users on your account, so you’ll need to either downgrade one of them or upgrade your account to have more seats available. Let me know if I can help!
2. Use white space
Humans tend to read the first and last sentence of a paragraph and skim most of the content in the middle. Rather than burying your important information in a block of text, use whitespace to help busy customers skim more effectively.
I’m trying to upload an image, but everytime I refresh the page it disappears. Can you help me sort this out?
Oh no! Let’s get this sorted out right away.
First of all, what format is your image in? It should be a jpg, or png file smaller than 5MB.
If it’s still not working, let’s try uploading in a different browser. We find the file uploader works best in Chrome.
Let me know how that goes! If it’s still not working for you, please attach the image on your reply and I’ll try to reproduce the issue on my end.
3. Bullet points are your friends
If a customer needs to do several things, in order, it’s much easier for them to follow steps if they are visually listed.
We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to resolve their issue — that’s the whole idea behind CES. The easier it is to follow the instructions in the support email, the more likely the customer is to resolve their issue and continue being a customer.
I’m trying to integrate my surveys with a new Help Desk. Can you please help me with how to do this?
Thanks for getting in touch, I can definitely help you out with this. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- The API key from your Help Desk. You can find that here.
- Your favorite survey images.
- The questions that you want to ask.
- An email address that we can test with.
Once we’ve got that all ready, head to your admin section and….
4. Link, but don’t abandon
Do you have really great resources that your customer would find helpful? Cool! By all means, link to the more thorough answer in your email reply. But don’t just link and walk away.
Simply linking to a help center article or intro video might be seen as dismissive. Instead, explain the answer they need as briefly as possible first, and then refer them to the resource if they find it necessary. Aim to explain 80% of the solution in the support email, and leave the details for the resource to further clarify.
This article will solve your problem.
- Open the admin panel
- Click on Settings
- Update your timezone preferences to your current location
- Click Save to update.
If you need more assistance, we’ve created this great walkthrough with screenshots and more information about how timezones work. Please let me know if I can help any further!
Customer Support Lead
5. Abandon business speak
Say what you mean, don’t hide behind empty business speak phrases. What does business speak mean? “We appreciate your business” or “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused”. We tend to fall back on tired expressions like this when we don’t know what to say — either because we feel uncomfortable in the situation or because we’re worried a customer might react poorly.
Instead of defaulting to business speak, think about what you’re actually trying to say. Are you sorry that an outage disrupted their work day? Say that! If you read your support email out loud it should sound like you… not some business bot.
Instead of… Try…
We appreciate your business. — I’m so glad you’re giving us a try! Let me know what I can do to help.
We apologize for any inconvenience — I’m really sorry this affected your account settings.
Thank you for your feedback. — We love hearing how we can make our product better. This is really helpful for our product team… thank you!
Please revert back. — I look forward to receiving your answers so we can get to the bottom of this. :)
6. Break complicated questions down
While customer support agents might be communication geniuses, our customers are often not. You might get stream-of-consciousness emails where every little question they’ve ever had comes pouring out in one block of text. Or maybe there’s so many emotions in the email it’s tough to decipher what the actual question is.
The key to answering these is to break up the noise into answerable questions. Just because they sent you a block of text doesn’t mean you need to send one back in your support email. Use the whitespace method to quote and separate out questions and answer each one individually.
7. Be direct
If you need a customers to do something or come back with additional information, make it clear what you want them to do.
Sometimes it can feel too forceful to ask for things. When we’re trying to make the interaction easy, the last thing we want to do is add more hassle for our customers! But in fact, the opposite is true. It’s actually a much more frustrating experience for the customer if they read your reply and are left wondering “What next?”
Use strong, clear language when writing your support email. Be direct about what steps the customer should take next — after all, you’re the expert!
That’s a great question, and I can definitely take a look into your account and see what we can do for you. Before I do that, I need three things from you:
- Your billing address for security validation
- The logo you want uploaded, in png or jpg format
Once I have these things, I can complete the registration for you.
8. Repeat and rephrase
If you’re not quite sure what the customer is asking, take your best guess. Repeat their question in a different way and suggest an answer. Then, offer more assistance if you haven’t got it quite right. Sending back a virtual shrug gets you no closer to solving their issue.
I’m having a hard time making the file thingy sit properly in the viewfinder. Can you help?
Thanks for writing in! I’m happy to help out.
I think you’re referring to centering an image in the middle of your browser. Is that right? If so, check to make sure your browser settings are correct. This article will give you a full list of what you need to check.
If that’s not what you’re looking for, apologies! Send me a screenshot of the part of the program you’re looking at and I’ll take another crack!
9. Say sorry!
People love an honest, genuine apology. In a study by the Carey School of Business, satisfaction with service recovery doubled (from 37% to 74% satisfied) when an apology was added on top of other compensation (like a service credit).
When the occasion calls for it, apologizing is an easy way to regain goodwill with your customers.
5 Ways to Say Sorry I’m really sorry that this affected… I know this was really frustrating, and I’m sorry for the trouble. Our apologies for the hassle this has caused, it’s definitely not up to our usual standard. I want to apologize for … I’m sorry.
10. Keep it simple
Einstein has said that if you can’t explain it to a 5 year old, you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Never is this more true than in customer support. Your customers come from a variety of backgrounds, and most of them don’t have a diploma in computer science (unless you’re supporting NASA engineers [if you are, that’s really cool, please email us and tell us about it]).
Keep technical jargon to a minimum and don’t assume customers know how to do things like opening an incognito browser or clearing their cache.
What’s the best tip you have for writing the perfect email reply? We’d love to hear it!