We all have a few memories which stick out as great or terrible examples of customer service. Regardless of how well the encounter goes we’re always left with a lasting impression from the companies we deal with.
These scenarios play out a certain way because of how we’re treated. How we’re treated depends on how effective the help desk agent’s responses are in solving our problems or providing answers.
Solving and answering is up to you to figure out since it all depends on how your product or service works. But there is a lot more to responding to customers than simply giving them what they ask for.
In this post, we’re going to discuss the finer details of what a great help desk response looks like so that you’re always leaving the right type of lasting impression on your customers.
Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll cover:
- Showing our brand colors consistently across the help desk.
- Using our name to identify ourselves as more than just a company.
- Providing a picture to put a friendly face behind communication.
- Telling them your role and company to let them know they reached the right person.
- Greeting with their name so they feel recognized instead of just another customer.
- Thanking them for reaching out to let them know their time and attention is appreciated.
- Apologizing so they don’t feel like they are at fault.
- Sympathizing to help them feel understood.
- Solving and answering their request to give them what they came to you for.
- Prying to find hidden needs and new opportunities to help them.
- Reminding them to reach out if they have help or questions.
- Asking how your company can do better moving forward.
- Smiling to emphasize a light-hearted tone for the message.
- Thanking them and signing off in a simple and professional manner.
- Placing your name and company once more to keep your name and brand in their mind.
It may seem like a lot, and sometimes a response needs to be that extensive, but most of the time you can just pick out a few of the important pieces and still make a great impression. The few details to use every time are the ones in bold.
Before we dive into all that, you might be wondering…
Why So Much Focus On Help Desk Response?
This is such a critical part of any successful business. If your customer support doesn’t maintain the same quality of your products, eventually people will back out and not trust you. The unfortunate truth is most businesses fall short when it comes to supporting customers after the purchase.
It’s becoming more apparent with every year that the key to pulling ahead of the herd and climbing up to the top is world class customer support.
Neil Patel says it best:
Never take your customers for granted because they are the lifeblood of your company. From going above and beyond to make each of them feel special to helping them out even when it may not make sense, putting your customers first will help you increase your revenue in the long run.
And he’s absolutely right. There are plenty of businesses out there which focus on creating the best product or service available, but that’s just the beginning. How you handle the relationships built while delivering your product to the world will make or break your long-term success.
Your help desk is where customers go when they have a problem or question. They might be angry, lost, confused, upset, worried, or happy about hitting a snag along the way, but you always want them leaving the conversation satisfied with your company.
Zappos is known worldwide for living by a few simple philosophies to connect with customers emotionally:
It’s up to you to decide what sort of style you want your company to operate with. Will you follow the lead of Zappos and remain in a constant state of going above and beyond? Perhaps you have a more reserved approach and leave the responsibility of succeeding on the customer’s shoulders.
Once you know how each relationship should go, you’re ready to set yourself up with a style of help desk responses to reflect that.
Leave Lasting Impressions Online
There are several key details every help desk response needs to be its best.
Some of those details need to be apparent before they ever start reading your response. For example, you’ll need to think about…
- Your branding colors, which we’ll cover next.
- Your name, role, and company, all of which combine to give you an identity in their mind.
- A picture to put a real human face behind the text.
Other details should be weaved throughout the content. This includes…
- A personalized greeting using their name.
- A thank you for taking the time to contact you.
- Apologizing about their problem, if needed.
- Sympathizing with their suffering to let them know they are understood.
- Solving or answering their inquiry to fix the problem.
- Digging for hidden needs.
- Reminding them to get in touch if any questions or problems pop up.
- Asking how you can do better.
- Smiling to support a positive tone for the conversation.
- Thanking them and signing off professionally.
- Giving your name and company to keep your brand fresh in their mind.
When meeting people offline and in person you have the opportunity to assess some of their characteristics. You see the way they look, how they carry themselves, their face, style, and more. It may not seem like much, but those details tell us a lot about the type of person they are.
Leaving a lasting first impression is just as important online as they are in person, which is why your customer should get to know you a bit before they respond or hear any answers and solutions. If you’re a faceless entity then you are not human, which tends to leave room for people treating you as something less than human. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we’re way more likely to mistreat someone online or over the phone when we don’t know them very well.
So let’s dive in and discuss bringing some identity and personality into the picture while also improving the effectiveness of our help desk responses.
1. Show Your True Colors
One of the first and easiest ways to become quick to recognize by your following is by decorating your messaging and help desk platform with company colors.
When you send people to your website, social media page, blog, or help desk, you’re bringing customers into an environment created by you. Creating a consistent look and feel between all platforms will make your brand easy to remember and quick to notice among the endless ocean of competing businesses and products.
It’s not just the colors, though. The way you present information has a certain style to it. Find your style and wield its power. Your style is part of the beginning, middle, and end of every interaction you have. Make it count the whole way through.
Our own Help Desk is a great example. Take a look around this website you’re on, then check out the Help Desk here: https://imsecrets.zendesk.com/home
The style and color remains consistent between our blog and Help Desk. Although the color may vary across our line of products, you’ll notice the graphic design styling remains similar while managing to stand on its own.
This isn’t done just for branding purposes. It’s also a side effect of knowing your brand well enough to know how it should look. As Lindsay Kolowich says, “A brand is one of the most valuable assets of a business, and it needs to be carefully crafted to ensure it properly and authentically represents the business.”
Ben’s products don’t teach you how to set up bright, shiny, get-rich-quick courses with gaint, flashing buttons, which is why his products do not look that way.
A solid course which teaches business building, life changing strategies for generating an income online needs to look clean, carefully developed, and thorough, which is the same thinking applied when styling our blog, help desk, product pages, email newsletters, and more.
Once you know your colors and how to wear them, it’s time to get a bit more personal.
2. Give Them Your Name
Identifying yourself by name will make you seem like a real human. It’s not that people don’t think you’re human. In today’s busy world, we simply lose sight of the fact that we’re engaging with another person. Having a name separates you from the nameless herd of strangers in the world and puts you in the category of a new acquaintance. You’re not friends yet, but you are well on your way to earning their trust.
Identifying who they are talking to is great for long-term relationship building. Many customers will take the time to call out the help desk agent for their hard work and quick response, or lack thereof. Either way, you’ll want to give them a name to use and grow a relationship with.
3. Provide A Picture
Even with a name, people are still on guard about who they speak with online. Help desks are notorious for being outsourced to another country, and not everyone will believe that you’re really named John Smith.
Providing them with a picture of yourself takes this whole becoming friends thing to the next level. Fake photos are often easy to spot, which is why you don’t want to look like a pristine and finely dressed stock photo. A real picture with a real smile will go a long way towards convincing the customer that you’re a real person who wants to help.
Let them join in on the fun, too. Many platforms like ZenDesk lets them upload and create their own profile, turning the help desk into a forum for discussion. This is a great long term choice to make, too. You never know when you’ll run into that customer face-to-face. Hopefully, you two were on good terms with each other.
4. Tell Them Your Role And Company
You can see an example with how this looks in the section above. That’s the way ZenDesk displays it, and if you aren’t using them to manage your customer support I would highly recommend checking them out.
The customer typically knows what company they are talking to, but it never hurts to remind them. I won’t try to convince you that there’s a lot to be said about frequently putting a name or idea in front of someone, but there might be.
While you’re at it, tell them what role you play at the company. “Help Desk Agent” is fine and often the go-to label for most organizations, but feel free to come up with something fun and unique. Are you the Director of Customer Happiness? Great! Let them know. At the very least you’ll make them smile, but the right role title can also put any of the customer’s stresses or worries at ease. Make them realize they’ve finally connected with the person who will help.
Now that you’re done introducing yourself, it’s time to actually greet the customer.
5. Greet Them Using Their Name
People love to hear their own name. It’s widely understood that remembering and saying someone’s name will make them feel appreciated and think more highly of you. Your greeting sets the stage, and using their name gives them the idea that you know them.
When you open with greeting them by name, you’re subconsciously letting them know you care about them. They likely encounter plenty of people throughout the day who don’t remember or use their name, and by saying it just once you avoid becoming another person who didn’t care. You rise up above the crowd and stand in more favorable light by using their name.
Most help desk platforms have a code to use which automatically fills in their name. Normally this works well enough to use all the time, but sometimes they fill their name in as “PropertyEnterpriceLLC” or something along those lines. In these scenarios, it would look pretty tacky and reveal that at least part of the message being sent is created automatically generated. Regardless of whether they know that or not, it’s best to avoid calling attention to the idea.
Here’s what the code looks like on ZenDesk:
ZenDesk has a long list of different placeholders to use which will help automate a lot of the organizing needed to maintain a working help desk. You should be able to find a placeholder for almost any piece of data aside from the personal touches every response needs.
These pieces we’ve discussed so far may seem small, but keeping them in mind will uphold the sense of providing a personal touch on their problems or questions. They reach out to you because they’re either lost or angry. Take them by the hand and show them the way.
Let’s dive into the meat and body of your message, starting with thanking them.
6. Thank Them For Reaching Out
Once introductions and greetings are out of the way you’ll want to thank them for taking the time to submit a ticket. They could have easily gone to social media or review sites to complain about their problem first, but instead they decided to send you a ticket asking for help. That alone makes them worth your time and worth a big thank you right away.
Thanking them also creates a cooperative tone for the situation. They didn’t just submit a ticket. They did you a favor which will help them receive a better experience in the end. No matter how long or charged the complaint may be, they aren’t trying to shout it from the rooftops when they submit a ticket. They just want answers and solutions.
This phrase doesn’t need to be elaborate or complicated. Here’s the go-to phrase I use in almost all Help Desk responses:
Thank you for taking the time to submit a ticket.
It’s that simple, and it sets up the context that they helped you out in some way. You start the conversation off in a position of appreciation which will make most customers smile and relax about their worries.
7. Apologize If Needed
In most help desk tickets, something went wrong. Sometimes your customer won’t be able to find a certain video or a link, or they are lost on a given topic, or they want to know when the next webinar happens. No matter what, if there’s room to apologize go ahead and do so.
This isn’t necessarily about making up for a mistake. Sometimes people just want to feel better about what they did, and getting an apology is a great step in that direction. You put their mind at ease, make them feel like they didn’t mess up and that they are just the victim, but most importantly you let them know you’re aware of their problem and want to help make it better.
I put “if needed” because sometimes you don’t need to apologize. If they just want to say thanks for the great product or service, there’s nothing to apologize for and it would look weird if you did. Use your best judgment, and always apologize if there’s room for it.
Here are a few quick examples to think about, that way you don’t have to come up with the phrasing on your own:
I’m so sorry about the trouble with accessing your purchase.
I’m sorry to hear that our software is not working properly.
I apologize for the trouble with installing Product Y.
I’m sorry, but at this time we cannot provide a solution which fixes Problem X.
Cater it to your product or service, but that’s all you need for a good apology. Avoid trying to sound like you’re explaining the problem away. Don’t tell them “the login works just fine for me” or “we can’t recreate the problem”. Instead, keep extracting information out of them. For example: “I’m sorry to hear this page doesn’t display in Chrome. Do you have any addons which may interfere? Have you tried it in an incognito window?”
I could have told him it works fine in Chrome for me, but that wouldn’t accomplish much. Small differences like this can help maintain control over how they feel about the help they are getting. I don’t say that to sound manipulative. Think of it more like leading them to the solution while minding their mental state along the way.
8. Sympathize With Them
If they are reaching out to you, then they are suffering in some way. Regardless of who’s at fault, and regardless of how severe their suffering may be, look for ways to sympathize with their position.
This is especially easy when handling complaints. People will reveal quite a lot in the process of complaining. If they write in to tell you a video won’t work, but also mention that they feel a bit lost in your course, you can sympathize with them and see if there’s more room to help. Don’t just solve their video problem. Go above and beyond by finding a few more to take care of before they even realize there’s another solution or answer they need. Remember, you’re trying to nurture both a human and business bond with customers and prospects.
Talk about the path ahead of them based on where they are in your business. Reassure them that if they get stuck when it’s time to start creating content or setting up an email list, they can reach out to you for help.
A few small comments can go a long way towards making them feel like they didn’t mess up as much as they thought. Here are a few examples I’ve used for when people get stuck somewhere in our course content:
You’ve come a long way so far in The Clarity Program, Jonathan. I’m working through it, too, and I fell behind because I got stuck when it came time to pick my niche to target. Don’t feel like you have to be caught up 100%. The content is there to go through at a comfortable pace, and the important thing is to not overthink it like I did.
Telling customers that you also fell behind will remind them that nobody is perfect and it’s okay to get stuck once in a while. In this scenario, Jonathan was overthinking a few parts of the course, so I told him to avoid that in a way which didn’t call him out. In fact, I called myself out to keep the pressure on me.
This is a soft form of persuading them which may not always work. It’s an attempt at nudging them without pushing too hard, which is a great approach for guiding those who might be new to creating their own online business.
9. Solve The Problem And Answer The Question
Almost all tickets are sent in search of a solution to a problem or an answer to a question. After handling the above details, which should only take a few sentences at most, you’ll want to actually provide the help they are looking for.
The reason you don’t jump right in and provide this first is to set the stage for a strong relationship between you and the customer. You’re building a friendly and helpful context around the interaction so that when you actually hand them the keys to the kingdom, they already think highly of you as a person.
Even if it’s your job, you want customers walking away from interactions feeling like you’ve gone out of your way to help them as best as you can.
This isn’t done to guilt them into appreciation or anything. Like any part of a conversation, you’re working on the context between all participating parties. Creating the context that you’re a superhero at their service will only serve to benefit the both of you. They’ll feel more hopeful about reaching out to you in the future, and you’ll already have found a warm place in their heart.
If you’re putting out any decent quality product or service, you’re in this for at least the next few years. Like any great relationship, you’ll start out making a great first impression if you solve and answer any problem or question they might have.
10. Pry Further When Needed
Hidden needs are nothing new to running a business. Most customers won’t always understand the full scale of their problems like you might. Whereas they only have their life and experiences to think through, you get to hear about the problems people face every day when using your product or service. This puts you in a great position to find hidden needs with a bit of prying.
Did they reach out to ask how to integrate a certain tool into their website? Check out the website to look for anything else they need help with. If you walk them through setting up a widget, only to realize they would benefit a lot from a countdown timer, let them know that Timerlay will help boost conversions in addition to the widget they asked for help with.
There are tons of subtle clues to look out for when customers reach out for help. Make sure you or your help desk staff is on the lookout for patterns which reveal hidden customer needs. If you don’t have a product or service that helps them with these hidden needs, maybe that should be your next project.
- Do they mention feeling lost in your course?
- It may be time to redesign your content for an easier user experience.
- Or they may be ideal for 1-on-1 coaching.
- Did they get stuck using your software?
- You can offer consulting or even hired help from a staff member that can do it for them.
- Or maybe your user interface needs a bit of work.
- How often do people ask the same question on the same part of the course?
- That question may need its own section or video.
- Are the worried about how long it will take to generate an income from a certain business model?
- Offer case studies which show how quickly it can work.
- Tell them you’re around for help in an active Facebook group of other people trying to do the same thing.
- Or provide a guarantee of success within 30 days or they get a refund.
- Is the writing portion intimidating them?
- Provide cheat sheets to give them a base to start with.
- Offer writers for hire.
- Offer content reviews.
These scenarios are endless and fit your style of product or service. It won’t take long to start seeing these patterns emerge. Once you find them you can start developing a knack for spotting them and pulling the need out onto the table for them to think about. At that point, they’ll either move forward and you get the sale, or they won’t and you’ll still have offered to help.
11. If They Need Help Or Have Questions…
Before closing the conversation, there are a few simple sentences to provide which will go a long way towards making the most out of every interaction.
Once their problem or question is solved, ask them to reach out if they ever need any help or have further questions.
Although this seems obvious and simple, we’ve received a ton of great feature requests from people by asking this of them. They’ll feel cared about and appreciated for using your product, which may remind them about that one small thing they thought might help make everything better. Suddenly, you’re rolling out an update that hundreds of people secretly wanted but didn’t take the time to contact you to ask.
Most of the time problems are not isolated events. If one person falls into a ditch or bumps into a bug, someone else might. When someone finally decides to reach out and give you the heads up on a problem, there may have already been a dozen or more other people who saw the same thing but didn’t take the time to tell you. Reminding everyone you speak with to reach out if they have any other questions or need more help is a passive way of keeping your following trained to bring problems to your attention as soon as possible.
Your audience wants to know that you’re there for them, but there’s nothing saying it can’t go the other way around, too. Testing products and services can only yield so many problems to fix. Your customers are your direct line to the best possible version of what you offer. Always encourage that idea within them and you’ll find a lot of leg work being taken care of for you by some of your best customers.
12. How Can We Do Better?
If you’re in Customer Service, your purpose is to ensure customer experiences are the best they can be. “How can we do better?” is a question that is especially important for refunds and membership cancelations. Rather than simply thanking them and sending them on their way, ask if there’s anything else you could have done to make the experience better.
They may respond with a simple ‘It wasn’t right for me’ answer, but they might also say ‘Course pace is too fast/slow’ or ‘Not worth the money’. Rather than simply losing money via a refund, you’re now armed with the knowledge of what caused the problem. When your product or service isn’t worth the money, you either have a problem with messaging or development. Either way, listen to the customer’s response and take it to heart.
13. Smile! 🙂
This may not fit for everyone or every niche, but a great way to disarm frustration over the web is to give them a smiley face.
It’s easy to sound either incredibly genuine or condescending online depending (somewhat) on your word choice and (largely) their mood.
Sometimes anger from a customer can’t be helped, but using a smiley face lightens the mood while emphasizing how helpful you’re trying to be. It may seem small to you, and you may even decide it’s not right for your company to use what could be considered visual slang, but emoticons are a widely recognized form of relaying emotions. Even if you don’t use them, it’s clear to most people what they mean.
In the end, it’s up to your business to decide if smiley faces are okay to use. It’s not always appropriate but does always give a picture to think about along with your words. Having a picture of a smiling help desk agent is good enough if you’re not okay with smiley face’s. Most people have the type of brain which will fill in the gaps, so if you don’t provide enough visual stimulation their mind will create imagery to go along with the information. Help influence these visualizations by providing imagery throughout the process when appropriate.
14. Thank You And Sign Off
We’re finally done with our response. It may seem like a lot, and when broken down by sections it most certainly is a lot. However, some of these details can be merged into the same sentence and others aren’t necessarily required in all scenarios.
It’s up to you to decide which pieces fit with your customers and brand image. This whole post can be condensed into just a few sentences. Hitting as many key details as you can goes a long way towards ensuring your responses are complete, appreciated, and remembered.
There isn’t a whole lot to a sign off, but it should always be done professionally. Avoid less formal sign-offs like “Much love”, “Yours Truly”, and “Peace Out”. Keep reading for an example which has every element integrated into one succinct message.
15. Name And Company Once More
As we discovered with the Baader-Meinhof effect, redundancy is okay. Once you sign off of the letter, toss your name and company below it. It’s a formal way of closing out the response and continues to put your brand name and help desk agent’s name in their head. The more they think about you, the more likely they are to reach out when they need help or have an idea.
Most help desk services have a way to make responses into macros, and it may be worth creating one for the key points we just walked through. This allows you to pull the macro in for most scenarios without having to retype it all over and over again. Less time spent on help desk tickets frees up more time for other tasks, which is how you wind up helping each employee leverage their time most effectively.
It may seem like a lot of work to anticipate and create macros for every possible help desk request, which is why I’ve written about 9 Customer Service Macros That Will Save You Hours Or More Per Week.
And of course, no message is complete without…
(Bonus) 16. The Value Of A Post Script
A P.S. at the end of every help desk response is a great opportunity to provide more information, updates, announcements, and more. It’s a free section to advertise from which can reach a lot of extra eyes over time.
Do you have an event or sale coming up? Make a quick P.S. and attach it to your help desk responses for the next week. Be sure to use a tracking link so you can see how effective it is for your audience. Responding to customers is still part of your business, and it is another chance to grow your business. Don’t fall short by leaving out one quick line that can generate sales.
The final version of your ticket may be a bit different than the example above. Again, you don’t need to hit every detail with every response. Use your best judgment and eventually you’ll find yourself quickly and easily deciding how extensive a help desk response should be.
Just remember that you aren’t going through all of these details for fun. Regardless of how much joy you feel when responding to tickets, the ultimate goal is helping them as much as possible. To do that, you need to get them more fully integrated with your line of products or services. You should always have a next step for your customers, especially if it’s hard to find. Your audience will tell you what it’s hoping for next so long as you’re paying attention. Making sure your help desk responses look like the one above will go a long way towards revealing those next steps quickly enough to let you produce something which will help make it easier for them.
In The End You Want A…
Your goal is to give your customer everything they need plus a bit extra. No matter what they come to you for, they should leave happier than ever. Making this happen 100% of the time may be difficult, but that’s what we’re going for when we respond to customer inquiries. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond for simple matters. Sometimes, a quick question about a link can turn into a fantastic feature request or a great review simply because someone felt well taken care of.
No matter how small, each interaction with a customer is critical. Whether they’re upset or thrilled does not matter. They all deserve a response that’s fully considerate and custom tailored to make them feel good about their interaction with your company. Help them get to a better place while making the most of what your company provides.
What else do you include in your help desk responses? Comment below with your own experiences and ideas if you use an idea we haven’t discussed.
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