Thank you for reading this post – really!
When I started at Gist I had been on the job for only a few weeks when I answered a question from Brad Feld, one of our key investors. It must have been late at night and I was a little curt in my reply, and Brad shared a piece of advice with me that has improved every email and customer contact I’ve had since that evening.
Whenever you write an email, Brad wrote, “start by thanking the person who sent it.”
I was mortified. Not only had I screwed up by replying without thinking, but I had also said the wrong thing to a really important customer. As it turns out, this piece of advice was the single most important takeaway that I had from my 18 months at Gist and helped me to be much more successful in building a strong Customer Experience for anyone who encountered me or the company’s brand online.
There are 3 key points about thanking a person who sends you a question (even and especially if they are mad) that I’ve gleaned from Brad’s advice – I’m sharing them here to prevent other people from making the same mistake I did (you can feel free to make a different one):
- Thank the Person for Writing. As Brad pointed out, the first thing anyone wants to know when they send in a question is that you read their email. And thanking them can go a long way towards building a positive relationship with this person. Even if you need to give them news they don’t want to hear.
- Restate the problem to demonstrate to the customer that you did more than just thank them. In writing out your paraphrase of the problem, you can either help to lower the emotional charge of the situation and/or start to think about how to solve it (even if you don’t know how you’re going to do it just yet.
- And finally, let the customer know what’s next. If you know what’s going to happen, state it; and if you don’t know, make a plan that will give the customer some idea of when she will hear from you next.
I think about Brad’s advice often (thanks, Brad), and it’s helped me to be more responsive with all kinds of customers, and especially those who email me.
Greg, I completely agree! At times, when I sit down to write “another” Thank You card, I will get a look from the person sitting next to me in a coffee shop or a restaurant. (At the beginning, or end, of almost every day, I write a TY Card…)
I simply smile, and go about my business. And, for the next 4-6 minutes (about how long it takes) I get to “steep in gratitude.” It’s nice…
Thanks for sharing!