The full Report on Tech Support Email and the "3 Steps to Better E-mail Writing"
copyright(c)2004,2011, Rev. 2010 by Diane M. Hoffmann
Hi... here's your Special Report. Get yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy!
One of the business communication technology inherited with the Internet explosion of the last several years has been the increase in email writing. The old way of writing letters by hand or typewriter has given way to computer and business communication technology.
I've been noticing the -- sometimes appalling -- way that people write emails. The new technology has opened a broad door to people who never had to write business communication before. This task had been reserved to managers. But now, everybody in the wide world business arena has been promoted to write business communication from executive levels on down the line.
Unfortunately, too many do not bother to check their writings before sending them out to their destinations. We see that in personal emails, business emails and on internet forums. The worst offenders are sales and customer service letters that are full of errors! But all writings within business communication technology is affected.
Particularly, we see this sloppiness in the correspondence of tech support groups who are front-end customer service representatives and who deal with so many Internet users. But it affects all spectra of email correspondence.
I’ve written this Special Report that includes samples of actual business communication technology emails that actually took place.
Then I share “3 Steps to Better Email Writing”.
If you haven’t read my article which leads to this report, I highly recommend that you do read it first. It will serve as an introduction to what prompted me to write this report. Click here.
In this report, I’m using only a few examples, although there are plenty of other ones as well, that represent what goes on in any typical day.
Real Life Example # 1
Here's an email I sent to one of my web hosting’s' tech support team within which I am also an affiliate selling their product.
When I send an email to them, I have to click on a "Host User" or "Affiliate" ID field request. So I am sending this email under the "Affiliate" ID:
How do I check the clicks on my pages. I'm running a campaign on Overture and it's showing clicks on there but I don't know what the natural search clicks are.
To which I received the following reply:
(Their emails are copied as they came unto my screen, except the names have been changed).
from the CLICK THRUOGH stats you can follow clicks on Links in yourpages (built in Text Links)f you are using LINKS from the LIBRARY you useCKICKIN stats.
My response to this email was as follows:
Sorry S., I don't understand any of this... :-)
"from the CLICK THROUGH stats" -- what/where's that?
I then received this answer:
The CLICK THROUGH and CLICK IN stats are both accessable from your Sitemain page (scroll down in the page to the "Web!Traffic" section) Otherwise please refer to the MANUAL: section 12.3. Click DataAnalysis
Then I had to send this email because I couldn't find what Manual he was talking about:
"S., just one more thing... there's so much stuff, it's overwhelming!Which one is the MANUAL you're talking about -- I looked for it but can't find it, sorry...
And received this reply:
I see upon further investigation I may have given you thee wrong destinations. I though youwere an web host user, but I see you are an Affiliate. As such all stats are available form4 STATS pages you can access form the main MENU in the main Affiliate page. Form the drop down list scroll down the list to the STATS pages.
Hard to read through the bad spelling.
Can you imagine listening to this (read it out loud as it is written), standing in his office in real world, a place that represents technicians or professional people?
Now, remember I said at the beginning of this trail that I had clicked on the Affiliate ID which identified me as an Affiliate.
Anyway, not picking. But this is a big company! And this is customer service!
Real Life Example #2
Then, on another busy day, I sent an email to clarify a negative comment I had read on a forum, about a feature of a tool on one of my hosting service providers which I also sell as an affiliate.
As I submitted the message, I realized that I had used the wrong email address. So I immediately re-sent the message with the correct email address under which I am registered there.
Within a short time, I received a lengthy comprehensive reply from one of the tech support team members, confirming that indeed it did have a fully loaded autoresponder and explaining all the features and limitless flexibility it has. I was able to use this information and post a clarification on the forum about the misinformation that had been given out.
A little while later, I received another reply from another one of the tech support team members (the request I had first sent with the wrong email address).
Here is what it said:
M. here from Customer Support:
The autoreponder is an available feature for both the Subscription to your Newsletters and your E-zines 9see (page 233 of your Manual)
Where exactly did you read thatit did not ? Could I ask you to please copy andpaste that section along with who quotes this if possible .. I am curious toknow.
Notice how different the two replies were from the same service provider.
The first reply is exactly what I needed (although it was full of typos). I was able to use it, a) for my own information, and, b) to reply to the forum with the best detail information direct from the service providers themselves.
The second reply told me that the service did have the autoresponder but it was only for the newsletters and e-zines. The other fellow had listed a whole list of features and flexibilities the tool had which was something to be desired.
Real Life Example #3
Here’s another example and my final one for the purpose of this report.
I received the following email, in reply to an on-going issue:
I am sorry, I did not understand what you were attempting to do here. I thought you were attempting to update the data on your homepage, not at the Server Exchange. I do apologize for my misread read of your question. As such, please let me know what the data list at your homepage should be and I will correct the error at this end, once that is done I will look into the issue at the Server Exchange as it relates to the data list.Again, accept my apologies on the matter as I simply misread the email.
Server Support Team"
The subject matter had been a tech support request which had gone on for a while. The reply of the tech support person above indicated that he had lost track of the issue completely.
He was apologizing for having been doing the right thing in the first place. He had been on the right track all along, until now. While he said in this email that he "thought" I was attempting to update the data on my home page, that “was” what I was doing.
My original email to the support people said this:
I'm working on my Server Exchange submission but I noticed that I didn't put enough data in my home page. How do I add data to my Home page now?
Now, I don't think it could be any clearer then this.
From here, I received a reply telling me how to do this... i.e.:
If you wish to add more data to your homepage simply log into the web central, under the section called "homepage" click on the option to edit your homepage. Once in the edit page simply add the data to the data list and then scroll to the bottom and hit the enter button. This will update your page with the new content.
My response to this was:
I tried it again as you suggested but, when my home page shows up automatically with all the information, the data have not changed. I had already tried that before and it had not changed it.
Now, again, this couldn't be clearer.
Let me just explain here what was happening.
I went to the Server Exchange to fill in a form that I was to submit to the web for a particular service. When the automatic page came up it already contained the data from my homepage. It was at that moment that I first noticed I didn't have enough data in my homepage.
So what I ”immediately” did is make a new list of data on my notepad, and then gingerly went to my homepage, highlighted the old short list and pasted my new longer list.
I then went back to the Server Exchange to fill in the form, but my data had not changed. It is then that I sent my first original message to the support people, because it looked like one could not change the data after it had been originally input into the homepage.
Ok, so, this is when the email exchanges from the support people began and I received the first reply from Pat above which told me to do what I had just done which did not work.
Then, this is the email I received next:
Please send me a list of the data syou want added to your home pageand I will try to duplicate your issue at this end.Best regards,
Now I felt a bit funny about doing that, but figured he's the support guy, right?
So I did... thinking that it must be because it cannot be done at this end “after” the original input in the homepage -- just as I had deduced earlier on.
So I sent it to him, and after a while checked my page again at the Server Exchange where the form was to be filled. There was only a short form, but “now” the short form was different; it only had the first five words of data from the new longer list.
In the meantime, I received the following email from Pat:
You are limited to five words of data and no more than 100 charactures in thedata field. As such I have updated the list on your home page with thamaximum allowed from your list.Best regards,Pat M.
So now he tells me the wording is limited. And the original words in my home page have been overwritten by the new longer list which has been cut to the first 5 words. But my original short list contained critical words that must appear which now are no longer there because they were further down in the longer list.
And, to make matters worse, I don't remember what these original words were and cannot find my original working papers on it!
In reply to Pat's last email, I sent this one:
I don't understand, here's what it says there in the Server Exchange Help Data: Please enter up to 20 data words"
This is when I received the last message:
I am sorry, I did not understand what you were attempting to do here. I thought you were attempting to update the data on your homepage, not at the Server Exchange. I do apologize for my misread read of your question. "As such, please let me know what the data list at your homepage should be and I will correct the error at this end, once that is done I will look into the issue at the Server Exchange as it relates to the data list."Again, accept my apologies on the matter as I simply misread the email.Best regards,
Server Support Team"
Yes, I was attempting to update the data on my homepage!
And, the communication of the email was about this all along.
There's no excuse for something as critical as this. I didn't bother answering back at this point. And I'm not being hard on support tech people. . . I wouldn't do that to my customers. And I also learn from these kinds of treatment how to improve my own support attitude towards my customers! A What Not to Do!
Fortunately, I did find an old file from when I had first worked on my homepage and was able to retrieve my 5 critical short list data and fix my homepage to the original status.
The whole point is this: there is the sloppiness of the typos taking place between the tech people and the customers, and there are also the issues themselves that are affected in this same careless attitude.
The communication broke down when the tech person lost track of the issue and did not bother to review the e-dialogue trail before carrying on.
What my last email should have told him is that I was not aware that the homepage has a limit of 5 words only, even though the Server Exchange field can take up to 20 data words for the purpose of registering for the service...
...therefore, that should have been the reply back from the tech support person. That’s it. Simple.
Many more examples:
Well, I could go on showing examples. But I think the idea is clear.
And I’m sure, you have plenty of examples yourself that you could send me. As a matter of fact do send your best one to me at the “Share Your Thought” link below.
I want to write an e-book of "worst tech support customer service stories". Make sure to write the subject line of the form as "My Worst Tech Support Story".
It's a lot of talking to point out and discuss these email writing issues, but once we've looked at them, it takes no time at all to 'see' it in our writing spirit as we put our words down in our business communication technology materials. We can immediately catch and correct the obvious on first re-read (edit).
In the writing world, good writing is achieved through the command “edit, edit, edit”. However in the fast e-world we don’t have the time to read and re-read to do that.
But all emails should be re-read and edited at least once. Really, it only takes a minute to catch the obvious errors. I often make the sloppy mistake myself during hectic business days. When I don’t re-read, you can usually tell – there will be typos that I will be very upset to see after it has been sent and it's too late to correct. So it is a continuous self-training to do it right the first time.
E-mails are today’s e-conversations. Therefore it is quicker than our previous print communications (letters, memos) that we used in business. Previous writing required many re-reads and edits to make it acceptable. And usually those who wrote business communication letters had support people who proofread for you.
But because email is now the mode of business technical communication (e-communication), and it is understood as being “immediate” and “quick” communication, we think we can get away with writing and sending quickly also – without editing.
But, no such luck. We still need to re-read and edit at least once.
We can do it more times, which I do often but not always, but because of the hurried feelings in our virtual offices, most people don't. So at least, we can get in the habit of re-reading one time and fixing up the most offensive typos!
So here’s the “3-Steps to Better eMail Writing”.
Step 1. Know your audience.
Know your audience. In other words who are you writing to? Your personal buddy or a customer? The two will require different styles of writing.
Email Etiquette says that an email is often the first or the only point of contact with other people. Because of this, it is important that the message portrays the best image possible.
Some web site retailers find that e-mails offer the occasion for a more courteous form of communication than a face-to-face contacts, because of the opportunity for editing the established rules for polite e-mail conduct. However as polite in tone as they may be, folks are tired of messages that are “virtually” unreadable in their spelling, grammar, ill-structured repetitive phrases and irrelevant wording.
Our personal buddies may not care about typos (although I do, and I also respect my buddies and clean up my emails to them), but certainly our customers and prospects do. As a matter of fact they will often make a decision to do business with another establishment on that very fundamental basis. Because it tells a lot about the attitude of the people working there.
The answer is simple. Edit at least once before hitting that “send” button, checking spelling and grammar, with a Spellchecker if unsure, then the punctuation.
The convenience of e-mail does not give license to be sloppy. Emails reflect the writer’s professionalism and the first impression of that person.
Step 2. Be clear and concise.
Be clear, concise and to the point in an orderly fashion. Informal and friendly, as in a personal conversation, e-mail writing should be brief but clear.
E-mail is different from other forms of communication because of its briefness and speed. In a conventional letter the reader does not ask an immediate question. With email the writer and reader have an on-going e-conversation with brief e-words and sentences. Therefore e-mail is not as formal as communication in print.
And it needs to be brief. Being brief means being more precise in communicating our thoughts and ideas.
Here’s an example:
Attn Sam, Customer Service,
Thanks for the information about the radio system. I'm not sure what kind of equipment I’m going to buy, but I'm thinking about a Sanyo or RCA. I got a couple of friends who have them and they are very happy. It’s just a matter of specific features I need. What system do you have? What would you recommend personally?Hope to hear from you soon,
The reply Sam has to send is the answer to the direct question, “What system do you have? What would you recommend personally?
So, always look for the questions that must be replied and answer that immediately. You may want to highlight that section from the email writer and use it as a quote at the beginning of your reply message. Like this:
In answer to your question: “What system do you have? What would you recommend personally?”
I have a such and such... and then you would add some benefits that would help the prospect to know more for consideration.Sam,
If an email contains multiple questions, like, What's the price? What's the size? What are the shipping terms? Simply copy and paste and write your answers underneath each questions.
If you are in tech support especially, do not speed read, skim and scan. Read carefully the first time and immediately copy and paste the questions that need to be answered in a new email or in the reply portion.
If you can't answer right now, copy & paste the question on Notepad and save it as a draft. This way, you won't have to re-read the email later, if it is a long one, to find out what exactly you needed to answer.
When you're ready, then answer as discussed above.
Step 3. Be aware of what you write.
Be aware of what you write. Once a problem has been exposed, it is easy to think about it.
Although it takes time to discuss issues – as we are doing here – our minds become aware of it instantly. In this case, it will become easy to 'see' in our writing spirit the words we put down.
Once aware, we can immediately catch and correct mistakes as we write, and then on first re-reading and edit. It becomes second nature. It's a new habit.
This is a post I came across just recently.
"Well after two weeks of support requests it seems that around 80% relate to the writing feature. Well the writing feature works perfectly. If errors occur here....etc.
Now, this is minor. But, the example shows the point of what to watch for, particularly in punctuation.
The first idea that comes to mind when you read this example is, 'well after (a long time after) the two weeks of support request...', but then you realize the 'well' is, rather, the expression “well”, so it requires a comma, i.e.: "Well, after two weeks of support request (therefore needs comma here to), it seems that...."
The novelist E. M. Forster said, “A pause in the wrong place, an intonation misunderstood, and a whole conversation went awry.”
The next sentence repeats the word 'well' which is not necessary and is cumbersome to read. So just eliminate it.
Now we would have:
"Well, after two weeks of support requests, it seems that around 80% relate to the writing feature. The writing feature works perfectly. If errors occur there... etc."
Or, if the writer wants the expression “well” along with the 'writing feature' sentence, then the first one should be eliminated. Repetition of words within the same sentences or paragraphs should be eliminated. And a choice can be made as to where the one word can be used, or one of the repeats can be changed by a synonym if absolutely necessary.
Here, we then have:
"After two weeks of support requests, it seems that around 80% relate to the writing feature. Well, the writing feature works perfectly. If errors occur there... etc." (And of course the verb should be 'relates', it refers to the 80%).
Notice that there is a repeat of the words "writing feature" within the paragraph. However, here it is needed for emphasis or clarification. If you changed the second "writing feature" to "this" for example, the stand-alone phrase could be talking about another feature.
How important is Spelling and Grammar?
Experts in business technical communication tell us that spelling and grammar is very important in showing professionalism when one writes. In other words spelling and grammar errors show us as unprofessional. And that no-one wants.
Go improve! Happy E-mail Writing!/dmh
Back to my blog site!