How to Write a Great Email to a Customer

Woman reading her emailA recent article in the Harvard Business Review stated that the key to making emails effective is to make them actionable, fill them with interestingness, and give them high relevance. Looking back at the emails I’ve written in my career (and also to the emails I write every day), I think we could all be more effective if we paid attention not only to these necessary items, but also to the ideas, emotion, and tone that make them sufficient (and even likely) to cause customer wow.

And what does that mean, really? It means that we don’t always deliver wow when we talk to customers, and to by extension we should always ask the question, what would your customers say about you if you always delivered amazingly responsive emails? And what if your email that also helped them to know their question was heard, and made them feel better by receiving the email? Your customers would feel great, because you would take care of the issue for them.

Building that great email to the customer starts with the values described above in the HBR article:

  • be courteous – thank the customer for writing, and address customers professionally;
  • be clear – let the customer know why you are writing, and which issue you are addressing (try to handle one issue at a time);
  • be interesting and actionable - in as brief a message as is appropriate, state the situation and what you can offer to resolve it for the customer (if the question requires that the customer make a decision, give them a closed question option if possible)

Answering these questions lets the customer know that you’ve identified and acknowledged their issue; that you can restate the problem, and that you can identify a solution.

A great email does all of this and more. A great email makes the customer feel like the hero of his own story without being overbearing. A great email helps the customer to feel better about the brand and the company because the person on the other end of the line cares what’s being conveyed and how it’s being conveyed. And a great email is the kind of communication that inspires that customer to share that experience with their friends and associates. You don’t have to send a super-customized dragon-emblazoned smartphone to your customer, but that is an example of a cool response that goes literally above and beyond what people expect.

To win over the customer, you do have to thank them for emailing. You do have to let them know you understand and care about their issue, and offer them reasonable options to resolve the problem. And it always helps to make them smile with your response. (If you can’t do that, tell them the truth – honestly and directly – and they’ll appreciate that too, even if they don’t always like it.) What if all of your emails were that good?