3 steps to great email customer support

email support

As a consumer brand, is there a better way of getting customers to refer you business than offering excellent customer support? My inbox this afternoon showed two polar opposites of handling support by email and illustrated what great support looks like.

I can sum up the differences:

  1. Ditch the “you’re in a queue” email
  2. Really listen to the customer
  3. Offer further advice

Ditch the “you’re in a queue” email

My depressing email exchange with Swiss Airlines starts when I tried to complain about the £4.50 credit card charge. I would normally never pay it, but their debit card payment route was broken, so to book the flight I had no choice.

Dear customer,

thank you for your message.

We will get back to you as soon as possible. The response time may vary depending on the amount of research required.

Please do not reply to this E-Mail. Use for your feedback our page: www.swiss.com/contacts

We thank you for your understanding.

Yours sincerely,

Swiss International Air Lines Ltd.

Let’s unpack the sheer hostility of this:

  • “thank you for your message” = we care so little we couldn’t be bothered to add a capital letter
  • “as soon as possible” = nor do we have enough staff to answer today
  • “Please do not reply to this E-Mail” = we can’t even be bothered to install a smart ticketing system

Really it would be better not to send me an auto-response at all – just get back to me when a human is ready.

Let’s compare that with an email I get from TransferWise, which was my good experience of the day.
TransferWise support

At first glance, this looks like an automated response, but then I realise it’s signed by a real person – and they actually want me to reply to the email.

TransferWise are having to deal with genuinely onerous FCA anti-money laundering rules – and offering a helpful way to get around it.

Really listen to the customer

The Swiss conversation goes downhill from there. OK, I’m a bit smart Alec about the transaction fee – but it’s a well known scam.

On 24 Feb 2016, at 05:51, contactus@swiss.com wrote:

Dear Mr. Upton,

Thank you for writing to us with regards to your query and we apologizes for the inconvenience caused.

We would like to inform you that GBP4.50 is the fee charged directly from the bank/bank fee.
Therefore, we cannot grant a refund with regards to the above mentioned fees.

We trust the above information will be of assistance and are available to assist you with any further questions at any time.

Thank you for choosing SWISS and we wish you a pleasant day further.

Kind regards,

Customer Travel Services / R1S

—– From: Edward Upton [mailto:edward@edwardupton.com]
Dear Miriama,

That is absolutely untrue. MasterCard charges you 0.3% for the transaction, which in this case is 51p

So please can you refund me GBP 4?


Edward Upton

—– From: contactus@swiss.com
Dear Mr. Upton,

Thank you for writing to us.

We have reviewed your request regarding your reservation.

Please note that in regards to your request we will not be able ot refund the OPC. Please note this (GBP4.50) is a charge placed by the credit card company and it applies as per the point of commencement of your ticket.

We hope this information is useful.

Please do let us know if you need additional information. Thank you for choosing SWISS.

Kind Regards,

Customer Travel Services / R1S

This feels like someone has cut and pasted from a standard response list. It’s robotic. And given that the original issue was actually about their website being broken, there is a total lack of empathy for the issue – just some ‘apologizes’ (sic).

Offer further advice

Often companies have to say no to refunds and extra requests, but at least be gracious.

And sometimes the company can offer you something that benefits both parties: a guide to how to avoid needing to email in the future.

Here is the exemplary reply from Transferwise

Hi Edward,

I hope you’re doing well!

Thank you for getting back to us, and confirming that we can change the name on the payment ###### to your personal.
I shall quickly pass this on to my colleagues, who are able to make the change and proceed with the transfer.
As soon as the payment is sent out from our end, we shall send you a confirmation e-mail, like always. All you need to do is check your inbox every now and then.:)

Just in case, I will explain how you can choose to use both your personal and business profiles on TransferWise.
Once you log in to your TransferWise account, on the upper right corner you should see a logo (like a man in a circle). When you click on the logo, you should see:

Use as Edward Upton
Use as Littledata Consulting Ltd

Therefore, if you want to set up a personal payment, and you’re planning to send money from your personal bank account, please make sure that “Use as Edward Upton” is ticked.
And if you’re planning to make a business payment and send money from your business bank account, please make sure to choose the second option.

If anything was left unclear or you would need help with something else, please don’t hesitate to get back to us. We are always happy if we can help!

I hope you have a lovely day,

Eliisa, TransferWise Support

Which company do you think I’ll recommend in the future? Comment below!

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