A lot of companies stink at customer service.
But there’s also many who are very good at it.
Zappos, an online shoe shop known for setting the bar for customer happiness, sold their online shoe business for over billion dollars. Zappos’ customer support was known for having no limit on call times (the longest call time was reportedly over 10 hours) and finding unique ways to delight customers, like randomly delivering flowers.
Basecamp became the world’s most popular project management software. Part of the reason was their superb customer support. They have a real-time customer service rating on their site that is consistently over 90% and Basecamp is known for responding to customer emails with a personal response within minutes.
With examples like these, more companies are seeing the value of doing more for customers than just handling questions with support tickets and auto-generated responses.
Why making customers happy matters so much
No matter what type of company you’re building, it’s sometimes easy to forget that pretty much everything you’re doing will ultimately come down to how you make people feel.
If you’re building a website, the backbone of your product is not your site architecture. It’s the people who use your product.
Depending on your business, your customers might just be as big a part of the product as the code you write. Some of them might be on your website more than you are.
At Crew, we’re believers of the principle 1,000 True Fans. In a gist, the principle of 1,000 True Fans means it’s better to have 1,000 people who love you than 10,000 people who like you. We think of 1,000 True Fans as a state of mind for how we should interact with customers. Each customer we talk with has the potential to become a raving fan or not.
Why making customers happy matters so much, especially online
If you’re building an online product, you don’t get as many opportunities to meet your customers face to face. So how well you treat people in the few opportunities you get matters even more. This is the nature of online business. You can reach more people but you develop weaker relationships with them.
You need to make your interactions count.
Treating people right is good product design. We believe that any interaction you have with our company should feel good, whether it be using our product or an email exchange with our team. Both are part of the product.
Early on when Crew was nothing more than a MailChimp email and Wufoo form, treating people right is what made things work.
When we were traveling in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, coffee shops became our offices. In between meetings, we would nab Wi-Fi for phone calls at random locations. I recall being on one phone call in the corner of a shoe store.
We had customers message us saying that our responsiveness and willingness to help made up for a limited product.
This is the impact of treating people right.
So how do you treat people right? Here’s an internal email guide we share with new teammates when they start in Customer Happiness at Crew.
10 tips and techniques for emailing people
Below is a list of 10 email tips and techniques we’ve learned from emailing thousands of customers, investors, and partners over the last couple years. Some are more obvious than others but we thought we’d share this here in case there might be a few things you find useful.
1. People are more responsive when they hear their own name
From when we were kids, we’ve been taught to give our attention when someone calls our name. So it makes sense then that if you’re trying to get someone’s attention, you should probably start with their name. It also feels more personal. We always start an email with someone’s name like “Hey Lauren.” Sometimes I’ll finish with their name as well before signing off. These little touches make a difference to let someone know there’s a human behind these emails.
2. Write like you’d write to a friend
Sometimes picturing the person you’re writing an email to as a friend of yours can help make your message more personable. It doesn’t have to be quite as casual as saying things like “hey man,” or “what up” but writing as if you’re having an everyday email exchange with a friend helps increase response rates and keeps conversations in a friendly tone. Try to refrain from using greetings like “hope all is well” at the beginning of a message. This can come off vague and impersonal. If you know something specific about your relationship with this person (i.e. they’re from Montreal, you met once before at a coffee shop, etc.) mention that in the email. It takes extra effort, but customers are people. And they deserve to be talked to like people, not machines.
3. Start and end happy
After starting the email off with “Hey Dan,”, it can be helpful to say a short sentence or word that puts the email in a positive tone. Something like, “Great…” or “Sounds awesome…” Even if I’m responding to an email where this response might not be necessary, try to start your response this way to gear the conversation in a positive direction.
4. Emoticons & exclamation points
A smiley or wink can be helpful to better convey how you feel or maybe to clarify something as a joke so it’s not taken the wrong way. But on the flip side, too many smileys or exclamation points can dilute your message. You don’t want someone thinking, “Okay that’s enough now. I understand you’re happy. You don’t have to keep telling me with fifty smileys and exclamation points.” If I’m going to use a smiley or exclamation point, I usually stick to 1, maybe 2 maximum per email. If you’re not sure you should use an emoticon or exclamation point, mimic how the person writing to you is using them or don’t use them at all.
5. Offer to help at the end
At the end of an email, try to offer help in some way. If you answered a question, ask at the end of your email, “Does that help?” Always offer to help at the end. Even if there’s no sale and this person might never be a customer, listen and offer to help. The benefits will come back ten fold in the long run.
6. More money, more problems
Don’t use $ signs when emailing potential customers. And don’t write out money like this $6,000. Why? Psychologically, $6,000 hurts much more than 6k USD. This study proved it with menu items in restaurants. And this is one of the reasons why the department store Neiman Marcus doesn’t list dollar signs next to products on their website.
Here’s a Neiman Marcus product page for a shoe without the use of a dollar sign in the price:
7. Writing emails if we screw up
Delays, bugs, and miscommunications happen. If a customer is writing to us about one of these problems, take the blame and find the best way to move forward. Admit faults and state how we plan on fixing for the future. If it’s bug, make note of it, and let the customer, who took the time to report it, know that we’ve added this to our list of product items to discuss.
If something might happen that could potentially be an unpleasant surprise for a customer try to anticipate the situation. Think, “If I were the customer, would I want a message by now?” Even if it’s just to say you don’t have an update yet but you’re still working on it. That’s better than nothing.
If a customer has to ask, we’re already too late.
8. Ask one question at a time
If you have questions that you need to ask a customer through email, it’s often helpful to end an email asking only one question that can easily be answered with a “yes” or “no” rather than many questions that need more detailed answers. If you have multiple questions, try to split them up so the customer doesn’t feel bombarded with too many things they need to answer. They may end up answering none at all. Ask fewer questions per email to keep the conversation moving.
9. Keep it short
Keep emails short. 3-5 sentences is a good mark but some responses require a slightly longer message. It’s not always possible to keep every message short, but it’s something that we try to aim for. Here’s a rough format of a typical email with a customer:
<”sounds awesome” or “great” or “thanks for the message” – start with a positive>.
<1-2 sentence response>
<a single question like “does that help?”>
10. Be the call to action
If someone says “I’m interested” or uses a similar phrase that indicates they want to use your product, a trigger should go off in your head where you try to remove every barrier to get them started with you.
By doing it for them, you remove the chances of something happening where they don’t become a customer.
What if they they get interrupted and don’t complete the form?
What if they decide to sign up later but then forget?
What if they don’t quite know what they need to put in the form so they don’t complete it?
Don’t give them instructions to create an account or fill out a form if they don’t have to. It’s better to do it for them.
Instead of saying,
“Great. Now you can go post your project here and create an account: http://pickcrew.com”
“Great. I’ll take care of this for you now. You’ll receive a confirmation email when everything is setup.”
Doing this guarantees you have a new customer. You don’t have to worry if they get interrupted or forget about you. This has the added benefit of making your new customer feel taken care of because you made it easier for them to signup.
In addition to these tips, we’ve also created the 7 Values Of Customer Happiness At Crew as a guide to how we view we need to be communicating with customers:
Treating customers right is just as important as any feature you could build. Your customers are your product.