Customer Service Excellence in Email Reference

For following up with a customer via email, we have the same customer service/quality guidelines that we do in person or in chat! The benchmark of a successful customer service email effort should be the quality of the response. Here's a quick guide to excellent email reference!

Let's say a customer came into chat asking about resources for becoming a dental hygienist and the chatting librarian marked the session for follow-up via email. This is how you'd want to respond:

Hi Emily!

Thank you for your question on becoming a Dental Hygienist! Here are some resources that might be useful for you:

The resources are up-to-date and from credible nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governmental agencies.

I hope this information helps you but if you need additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to log back in to AskUsNow! or reply back to this email.

Regards,

Paul Chasen
Librarian, Enoch Pratt Free Library/Maryland's State Library Resource Center
Maryland AskUsNow!

 

Lets take a closer look at the elements that make up an excellent email interaction:

Greet the customer

If we know the customer's name, use it! Studies show that name use makes a huge impact on satisfaction!

There are some cases where we would not use the customers name:

  • if they used a screen name as their name- ie, "slicksally" or "rogerthat123"
  • if they did not give us their name either initially or in the chat.

If a screen name or no name was provided, simply say "Hello" or "Hi."  Don't say "Hello customer" - it's very impersonal!

Acknowledge the question

It is important to acknowledge the question or situation or thank them for their time:

"Thank you for contacting Montgomery County Public Libraries with your question about otters."

"Thanks for accessing Maryland AskUsNow!. I am emailing to provide some additional resources that I hope will be helpful."

"Thank you for using the AskALibrarian email service. Your question about paddle boats is an excellent one!”

If this is a follow-up email to a chat session, be sure to read over the session as we may want to comment on any issues that arose. Let's take a case where a customer survey was less than ideal:

"I'm sorry your chat session on Monday did not go how you expected. I hope that I can provide some additional resources here that will be of use to you on your search for divorce statistics in the US."

Give information that will help answer the customer's question, and cite your sources!

If we veer off from the actual question, be sure to explain the departure. If they ask for a factual answer and can only provide sources, say so and explain why. Go the extra mile, but don't skip over the customer's actual question in an effort to provide other resources.

Make sure to note where the information or resources are coming from! Also explain why particular resources were chosen:

"http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos097.htm - The U.S. Department of Labor Occupation Handbook Online entry for Dental Hygienist provides an excellent overview of the profession, including specific training requirements and salary averages."

Deep link whenever possible, sending the customer to exactly where they need to be. "http://bcpl.info/branches/branch_ar.html" is much more helpful than "check our website at http://bcpl.info."

Sign your name

In closing, thank the customer for accessing the service and invite them back if they have any additional questions. Unless the library's procedure is to have a general email signature (i.e. "Sincerely, Librarian at HCPL"), please use a personal signature.  It's professional and gives the customer the knowledge that an actual person answered their questions.

Thank you for accessing Maryland AskUsNow!. Good luck with your project! Please feel free to contact us again by replying to this email or logging in at www.askusnow.info if you have any additional questions.

Sincerely,

Paul Chasen
Librarian, Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center

 

The transformation to email excellence

A customer entered AUN chat, but was not picked up by a librarian before the customer logged off. The customer did leave an email address and had a question about resetting their pin. Email follow-up was possible. Let's take a look at two ways of answering this customer:

less than ideal email response the ideal email response
The default PIN for your library card is the last four numbers of your phone number. If this does not work, please call us at 555-555-5555.

Hello [customer name],

Thank you for accessing [service name]! We apologize that you received no answer to your chat question yesterday- we were experiencing some technical difficulties and the service was “on” when no one was monitoring.

Thank you for leaving your email address so we could follow-up with you. In answer to your question, the default PIN for your library card is the last four numbers of the phone number you used when signing up with your library card. If this does not work, please call us at 555-555-5555 and we would be happy to reset it for you.

Regards,

[signature with name, title and location]

 

With just a few additions and edits, the email response is more professional, helpful, and welcoming. Emails to customers should be clearly, concisely, and completely communicated out.  Avoid starting emails as if in the middle of a conversation with friends.

What are tricks or policies for email reference at your library?  Please contact Paul and we will share them with AUN colleagues.