The Dead Giveaway for a Canned Customer Service Response

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This article was originally published on the FCR blog on April 23, 2018. Click here to read the original.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Macros

It’s possible that I’ve beaten the topic of macros (canned responses) to death in past articles but I have some new thoughts today. You’d be hard pressed to find a support team that doesn’t use them in some way, shape, or form in their email, chat, social media, and SMS correspondence with customers. Let’s review some of the benefits:

  • More sending and less typing means agents are more efficient. This naturally improves handle times without necessarily compromising quality.
  • The message customers is more centralized and consistent provided that macros are kept up to date. The benefit can be significantly reduced if agents keep their own macros in personal documents so keeping them in a central location is key.
  • Customer support communication aligns better with the brand voice and style of other company communications coming from groups like sales and marketing.
  • Manual tasks like categorizing and tagging can be automated when macros are applied.

These are great benefits, right? The real problem that exists with macros is when customers can clearly tell that they’re macros —  and I think we as customers can all smell a canned response a mile away. Here are some clear signs that a response from customer service is canned:

  • It doesn’t completely answer the customer’s questions.
  • Key information like the part that says [Insert Customer’s Name Here] or [Add Link Here] isn’t properly updated.
  • There’s no personalization to the message — just the facts.
  • The customer receives the exact same message more than once.

A Big Macro No-no

All of these are big no-nos when it comes to interacting with customers, so much so that I’ve seen some companies go the other way and ban macros entirely. In a recent meeting with a client I was reminded of one of the biggest offenders when it comes to macro usage — and even if a macro’s not to blame —  it might get blamed anyway. This offense occurs when we say the same thing to a customer more than once. Let’s look at an example:

Dear Customer,

Thank you for taking the time to write in about your widget. I’m sorry to hear that it’s not powering up. Here are a few things you can try:
1. Place it on the charger for an hour to give it a full charge.
If it still doesn’t power up, try pressing the power button and the volume buttons for 10 seconds.
2. If it still doesn’t work, hold the widget upside down and spin around 10 times.
3. Step 3 usually does the trick. Please let us know if this doesn’t fix your issue and we’ll explore next steps.

Thank you for taking the time to write in about your widget.

Sincerely,

Widget Customer Care

Notice how we said “Thank you for taking the time to write in about your widget” twice? In and of itself, it’s not a bad statement and has every right to be a part of this email. With some slight tweaks it can even be perceived as genuine and welcoming by the customer. But when you say it twice in the same email, it’s a dead giveaway that it’s not authentic and may leave your customer with a negative impression.

Before you send…

As I conclude, let’s quickly review best practices for using macros to ensure that we’re authentic while still taking full advantage of the efficiencies they provide us.

  • Make sure you use the correct macro. Correct answers are one of, if not the most important aspects of every customer interaction.
  • Make sure the macro fully addresses all of the customer’s concerns. If it doesn’t, the response should be edited appropriately. This might also prompt updates to macros and it’s important to have a process for keeping these up to date.
  • Personalize every message. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the opening and closing are personalized. Think of it as a humanized wrapper around the meat of the message.
  • Watch out for duplicates. Are you saying the same things multiple times within the message? Has the customer already received this exact message earlier in the thread? Both types of duplicates should be avoided.

While these guidelines might slightly increase the amount of time required to respond to an email, it’s still much more efficient than freehanding every message, will drive higher customer satisfaction, and improve your first contact resolution rate. Furthermore, do these things and your written customer service will always smell great and never canned. I’m not sure that analogy works but you get what I’m trying to say.

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