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Customer Service E-mail
Content Worth Keeping an Eye On

By: M.L. Hartman

M.L. Hartman is the Vice President of Creative and Communications at Interactive Marketing Group, www.imgusa.com, an integrated marketing and communications firm located at 50 Commerce Drive, Allendale, NJ. He can be reached via e-mail at ml.hartman@imgusa.com.

If it's true that businesses today rely on e-mail for as much as 25% of business-to-consumer contact, then perhaps website content and broadcast marketing efforts aren't the only language worth scrutinizing. Every day, massive quantities of poorly written e-mail are distributed to existing customers, with some of those messages doing more harm than good. And that's not a good thing if customer retention and greater profitability are what you're after.

Unfortunately for many employers, strong writing skills don't always go hand-in-hand with professional conduct, congeniality and overall responsiveness. Customer service is decidedly a function that not everyone is equipped to perform, with even the most proficient verbal talents sometimes coming up short in terms of written ability. Spelling errors, poor sentence structure, and/or misplaced punctuation can wreak havoc on your brand, undermining all the hard work done to position your operation as a class act. The old maxim "choose your words wisely" speaks volumes for the value placed on language, and alludes to the lasting impression that a few poorly constructed phrases can have.

With e-mail notorious for its lack of formality and a tendency to lead the reader to read more than just what's written, customer service communications need to be clear, professional and, above all, precise. To maintain quality outgoing messaging, it's important to monitor customer service e-mail at every level-even if that means sending inquiries from an outside account in order to review responses. Auto-responder/canned text should be examined by an actual writer to evaluate tone and determine clarity, and, if possible, e-mails should be personalized to include unique, targeted messaging. If you're providing customers with links to requested information, make sure that you provide "deep links" that go directly to what the customer is looking for-if your customers wanted to go to your site they would have, and chances are they already did visit but didn't find what they were looking for.

Customer service e-mail-the everyday dialogues that are the foundation of modern business-should be given all the same care and attention as any good customer retention campaign. After all, current customers represent the lowest cost of acquisition, and it's far easier to grow existing accounts than it is to secure new business-so every aspect of how you touch customers on a daily basis is extremely important. Thoroughness is key to maintaining and/or increasing the value of your messaging, and customer service representatives need to understand that every e-mail sent carries with it a far greater message.

© Copyright 2005, M.L. Hartman

Other Articles by M.L. Hartman

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