Do you remember your very first email address? Trust me, it was cool back when electronic mail was a thing of the future.

Now, emails have developed into a main form of communication and oftentimes, it's preferred. The convenience of having the ability to type up a short message, press a button, and have it delivered to your recipient(s) is a desirable way to connect.

Email is a crucial tool in the customer experience, especially with virtual operations becoming more the norm. Not only can you use it for marketing purposes, but it’s an easy line of contact with your patrons and a popular avenue to handle customer service.

41% of consumers expect an email response within six hours, but only 36% of U.S. companies respond that quickly.

The beauty of email is that while you should respond as quickly as possible, you have some more time to play with as far as gathering the needed information. You’re not put on the spot and forced to react on the fly like when handling phone calls.

The following writing suggestions will help you master the art of crafting a perfect email strategy for your customer service efforts.

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Writing tips:

In the midst of a non-personal line of communication, make it as personal as you can. Use the customer’s name as well as conversational language. Don’t throw in professional jargon that your clients may not fully understand. Basically just don’t sound like a robot, because you aren’t one.

  • Thank the customer for their request at the beginning and end of your response. Using your manners is a simple practice that will make the customer feel at ease from the beginning.
  • Stay away from the “Sorry for the inconvenience” phrase in most situations. It sounds insensitive and depending on the issue, it’s not really just inconvenient, it’s an actual problem for the customer. Bonus: Here’s an example of three phrases you should never include in your emails.
  • But it is okay to say “We’re sorry this happened”. This will show some empathy as well as prove that you are human and that you actually care.  
  • Restate the problem. Because you’re not actually speaking with the customer, rewrite the issue in your response to ensure that you fully understand.
  • Don’t shy away from asking questions. Engage in the conversation to make your client feel more at ease and put you both on the same page.
  • As always with any piece of written content you put together, check for spelling and grammar. This is especially necessary when referencing a particular case number or problem. These mistakes will make you look silly and cause you to lose trust with your customer.
  • Use names. Acknowledge the customer’s name at the beginning to make it personalized, and provide the representative’s name in the closing. Putting a face to a name will help your customers feel more like they’re communicating with a real person and not a machine. They’ll then also be more likely to personally reach out to you if any issues arise in the future. Establishing this relationship will strengthen customer retention.  

By sticking to those writing guidelines and following these best practices, you will be well poised to send a professional email response that your customers will appreciate. 

Use an informative subject line.

Emails can be tricky territory, especially with the unfortunate frequency of cyberattacks. To avoid any confusion, or an immediate red flag to mark your response as spam, make the purpose clear in the most obvious section: the subject line.

If you’re dealing with an online submission for a specific functionality request, include the case number in the subject line. Add a one or two-word description of the nature of the request as well. Example: “RE: Forgotten Password. Case #145”. 

By writing a subject line that’s completely clear, the customer on the receiving end will be less likely to automatically delete it or mark it as spam.

Give realistic expectations.

Despite the panic that ensues when one of your customers is upset, it’s important to remain calm and realistic. Promising that you’ll have their issue resolved in a matter of minutes gives false expectations. You never know what other hiccups may arise during the process, so you must be very clear with the timeline you provide. Bonus points if you fix a problem quicker than the time you allotted!

Be actively engaged throughout the entire email process.

Update your customer of any status changes to their situation. Even after the issue is fully resolved, take that opportunity to thank them again.

Depending on the size of your business, the software used to handle emails will vary. For the small business owner, you’ll likely field requests in your own inbox or forward them to a designated service employee while larger businesses will typically use more auto-generated replies. No matter your business type, you must have organization rules in place.

Include an email signature.

Your customers will appreciate knowing that they’re truly dealing with a professional employee. Keep it short, but include all of your important contact information as well as a high-quality logo of your business. Here is a simple template to follow:

Name I Title

Name & address of the company (with the logo)

Phone number with extension

*Social media icons (if applicable)

When creating, keep in mind your mobile audience and ensure they are able to see the content.

A quick tip: Always include and encourage the option for your customer to be able to call you if they need further explanation. It’s much easier to walk someone through a process over the phone than through email. 

Respond quickly, accurately, and in a personable tone. If you do those three things every time you respond to an email request, your customers will notice and appreciate your time. The overall quality of your email customer service practices could be the determining factor that sets you apart from competition.

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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may apply to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your plan.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.