Email etiquette is near extinction. In a world drunk on texting acronyms, the art of writing articulate, persuasive and grammatically sound emails seems to be losing relevance. It's so much easier and almost instinctive for most of us to write lemme instead of the lengthy let me, right?
However, in the world of customer support, email etiquette is an essential skill that shapes your brand perception and customer engagement.
One misspelling, one hasty resolution or negative tone is sufficient to ruin your hard-earned brand reputation and culminate into a full-blown escalation or PR crisis. Moreover, your email conversations are a reflection of your customer-centric mindset — how well you understand and respect your customers.
These are just some reasons your agents must be well-versed in customer service email etiquette. Let's talk about the rest and then delve into 13 rules to help write engaging and impressive customer support emails.
What is email etiquette?
Email etiquette is the code of conduct you need to follow while writing or responding to an email. It comes in handy when you need to figure out how to draft the email for a new or existing customer or that old client who likes to escalate the smallest issues to your boss just because they can.
In short, email etiquette governs the language, tone, timing and other technical specifications of your email, ensuring it is received well and engaged promptly.
The importance of email etiquette in customer service
In customer service, emails are more than a communication tool. Your team can use them to make a strong and lasting impression on the customer. Email etiquette is crucial for customer service for four primary reasons.
Accurate exchange of information
With well-worded and error-proof customer service emails, you can convey the requisite information to the customer, avoiding confusion or ambiguity. This way, you can hope to elicit the desired response from the customer and carry the conversation to a successful culmination.
Articulate emails indicate professionalism that customers value and expect from their preferred brands. Emotionally-charged, negative and erroneous messages come off as unprofessional and diminish the seriousness of the discussed issue.
Brand image preservation
Email etiquette that complies with brand style guidelines ensures you speak in your brand voice, fostering customer trust. Moreover, repeated exposure to your brand voice builds brand recall in customers, giving you a top-of-mind advantage in a cluttered business landscape.
Learn more: How to protect your online brand reputation
Efficient customer handling
Email etiquette is a guiding light for agents handling angry customers over email. It has protocols and best practices pertaining to escalated issues, emotionally-charged conversations and at-risk cases. Adhering to these enables your agents to navigate tricky conversations without losing their composure or customers.
13 Email etiquette tips for customer service teams
In this age of email fatigue, writing compelling and on-point customer service emails is no mean task. Here are some proven email etiquette tips to help your agents:
1. Avoid writing in an emotional state
Emotions cloud your judgment and rationality. If you are irked by an email, take a few minutes to calm down before you channel your anger through the keyboard. After you finish drafting, read your response a few times to ensure it was not written under the influence of strong emotions.
2. Use simple language
Go by the adage — the weak hide behind big words. The strong are simple to understand. Use simple words your customers can comprehend easily. Difficult-to-grasp language may put you at the risk of being misunderstood and losing context.
There might be customer service scenarios demanding the usage of technical terms. To explain them, leverage your knowledge base to the fullest. Redirect readers to your KB tutorials, FAQs and explanatory videos, giving them full context of the issue and resolution.
3. Keep the subject line concise
Subject lines work like hooks for emails. Catchy, context-rich subject lines stand out in overcrowded inboxes, encouraging customers to click. In your customer service emails, the subject line should convey the objective within nine words. Longer subject lines tend to get cropped on mobile devices.
If you have a ticket number, include it in the subject. Also, avoid using clickbait words like free, gift, hurry now, etc. — that create false urgency.
4. Interpret the underlying emotions correctly
Before responding to a customer's email, try to understand the emotions behind their words. Hasty responses without complete context can aggravate the situation or befuddle the customer.
5. Never disregard niceties
Be polite even in testing circumstances. Start your customer service email with a polite greeting personalized to each customer. Salutation style varies across organizations. For some companies, saying “Hey, (customer name)” would be alright, while others may like to begin with a formal “Hello, Mr./Ms. (Customer surname).”
Acknowledge the fact that your customer may be busy and that you appreciate their time and patronage. Remind them about why you're writing, quoting any previous conversations you may have had regarding the matter.
Before concluding the email, ensure your availability for follow-up questions and end with an appropriate signature sign-off.
Do you know: There are Generative AI-enriched platforms like Sprinklr AI+ that moderate the tonality of agent responses according to historical interactions with the customer? Using these, you can change the tone of your emails from friendly to empathetic to professional as the occasion demands.
6. Be straightforward
Say what you want briefly and directly. Attention fatigue is real. Customers are inundated with so many emails that they barely skim through most before bouncing off. Long emails will most likely make your customers drift away before time.
Consider using this approach. After exchanging pleasantries, set the agenda and state the most important point right away. The context and other bells and whistles can come later. This way, you bring your customer's attention to what matters quickly, which shows you value their time.
7. Respond on time
Adhere to the service level agreement (SLA) for email responses to different kinds of queries and cases. If you can't answer immediately, send an acknowledgment receipt so the sender knows you received their email.
Sounds cumbersome? Fret not. With robust helpdesk software, tickets are auto-generated when a customer email or case arrives and all follow-ups are handled by the software independently. This way, all related conversations and audit trails are maintained on the same thread and responses are sent promptly.
Answer faster with AI: Read 5 Ways to improve customer response time with AI
8. Offer assistance
Offering assistance may sound obvious since it is the primary goal of customer support. But a bit of extra assurance and assistance never hurts. Acknowledge customer complaints and assure them that you are focused on delivering resolutions.
Need a pro tip?
Let AI generate smart responses tailored to the unique case and scenario, as shown below. AI-powered customer support software can surface relevant help articles from your internal knowledge portal and attach them to your responses, enabling customers to solve their issues on their own while they wait for live assistance.
9. Avoid bias
Bias and prejudice reflect subjectivity and flout compliance norms for the contact center industry. Use unbiased language and gender-neutral pronouns in your emails. While many people specify their preferred pronouns, like him or her, use neutral terms like them or theirs if they don't.
Here again, AI comes to your rescue.
Features like Smart Compliance in customer support software flag instances of profanity and bias on both sides of the conversation, preventing escalation and potential backlash. You can configure the software to auto-stop publishing non-compliant messages.
10. Proofread rigorously
Run language and grammar checks before hitting send. Aftr all, yuo dont want spelling or grammar mistakes in your custmer emails as they look unprofessional and tarnish your company image.
Want to know the commonest pitfall? Getting the customer or the company's name, casing or spelling wrong. Avoid this at all costs since it's indicative of complete disregard for the customer and what they stand for.
11. Format rigorously
Unnecessary capitals, bold font overuse and lengthy paragraphs can make your emails unengaging and exhausting. Use bullets or numbered lists to break down a complex, multi-step process and support text with relevant visuals for lending more clarity.
It's also a good email writing practice to use short paragraphs and crisp sentences to boost readability. Do run your emails through grammar editors like Hemmingway/Grammarly or a live editor if you have one.
12. Avoid slang and colloquialism
Slang and colloquialism make your emails sound casual and cryptic. Making references to insider jokes or regional anecdotes that may be unfamiliar to your customer is another no-no. While you must avoid slang altogether, use your discretion around abbreviations, as you can include those acceptable in professional emails.
13. Conclude on a friendly note
The introduction and conclusion are crucial elements of any customer-facing email. Always end your draft on a polite note, such as -
“I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you” or “I hope to hear from you soon. Regards”.
7 Common mistakes to avoid in customer service emails
Drafting customer service emails is tricky and mistakes are bound to creep in no matter how meticulously they are drafted. For example, have you ever accidentally used your personal email ID instead of the official one while emailing a customer? That's bound to have repercussions.
Some mistakes can cost you more than others. Here’s a list of the top seven you must avoid when emailing a customer:
1. Using casual-sounding email addresses
JoeRocks@gmail.com doesn’t sound as professional as Joseph@XYZCompany.com during customer interactions. Train your team about the importance of using a formal email address while communicating with customers. Reinstate that they are representatives of the brand and their conduct should uphold the brand values.
2. Sending emails with "Sent from iPhone"
As in the above point, "Sent from iPhone or Samsung" reflects a casual tone that may dissuade customers from taking your emails with gravity. Your team must always send their emails from the designated system, using the designated software and with a formal signature, which includes their names, designation, business phone number and company logo.
3. Misspelling customer names
As stated earlier, misspelling customer names or using the wrong one (copy-paste error) is a grave error that should be avoided at all costs. It indicates that your team doesn’t care enough about the customer, eroding customer trust in your brand.
4. Forgetting the attachments
Drafting a good email with the perfect language and grammar can be so exhausting that by the end, you are drawn to just hit send and finish the task. You often tend to forget the supporting attachment. Although some email tools, like Gmail, remind you to attach the document, double-checking before sending is always a good idea.
5. Using "Reply all" when not needed
It's a classic example of going public when you didn’t intend to. This mistake needs your attention to ensure messages are sent to the right audience.
6. Resending the complete thread for an attachment
Remember when a customer missed an attachment and you sent the entire thread to indicate you had done your job well, but they missed it? Avoid that, as it prolongs the message unnecessarily.
7. Missing the context
Picture this. Your customer is trying to tell you something, but in a hurry, you misunderstand them entirely. The result is chaos, an unhappy customer who has to repeat themselves and a dented brand image. Read emails several times to understand the problem in its entirety, ask follow-up questions if you must and then offer the best solution.
Leverage AI to optimize your support conversations
For customer service representatives, mastering email etiquette is non-negotiable. However, given the hectic, fast-paced nature of the job, it's easy to disregard or forget these rules in haste. That's where automated and AI-powered customer support software like Sprinklr Service can be your trusty sidekick by:
Suggesting brand-compliant automated smart responses
Flagging profanity and prejudice with smart compliance
Phrasing messages in human-like language via Generative AI integration
Recommending relevant help articles from the integrated knowledge portal
Presenting agents with complete context and past conversations in one pane to enable speedy, context-rich resolutions
All of this and more in one unified customer support platform that's trusted by 90% of top enterprises worldwide. Book a demo today to learn how Sprinklr can help you and your agents deliver exemplary customer service.
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