Perhaps because they’re not personalised, auto-acknowledgements seem to be something like a stepchild in customer support. Some companies do without them, some use the default message their email system came with. Most accept a look and feel that’s in stark contrast to their marketing emails. And when things change, it’s easy to forget to update those automatic responses.
It’s worth taking special care when writing an automated message. Because it’s first, this email sets the customer’s expectations about tone of voice, attention to detail, what level of service they’ll get, and how long it will take. Leave a bad impression here and you’ll ‘automatically’ create a negative backdrop for the conversation to come.
Sabine contacted a company about a broken electric toothbrush and received this acknowledgement:
Dear Mr. / Mrs. Harnau,
We have received your inquiry and will answer your question within 4 business days.
If your question is urgent, please call our toll free Feeling at Ease line.
We are open Monday – Friday: 08:00 am – 08:00 pm and Saturday: 09:00 am – 6:00 pm.
Lighting Products: 00800 1234 56789
Skincare team: 0800 2345 67891
With kind regards,
Example consumer care
You submitted the following query:
[quotes customer email]
On a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being completely horrendous and 10 being perfect awesomeness, we’d probably rate this a 6.
Not bad, but could be better. Let’s see how.
The subject just says “Confirmation”. This isn’t specific enough to gain the recipient’s trust, and there’s a good chance that people mistakenly delete it as SPAM. For example, some people share their email accounts with other family members, and their husband or grandma may not expect a confirmation. If their inbox is set to display text only, they’ll see the attachments and perhaps even think of malware.
This example starts with a really clumsy salutation because the form didn’t ask for gender — and still wanted to use the formal address. So, to work around the lack of tech, the writer of this template chose to present the reader with an awkward selection of titles. To make matters worse, it’s not complete, potentially offending non-binary folks, the trans community, unmarried women, doctors and reverends — to name just a few.
‘Feeling at ease’: We’ve changed the name of the hotline very slightly to disguise the company that sent this. Both ours and the original version express the essence of great customer support.
But why can customers only ‘feel at ease’ on the phone, and only in urgent cases? The email team should aspire to the same thing!
At 4 business days, their response times are so long that most queries probably count as “urgent”. The American spelling and word choice (“Mr. / Mrs.”, “toll free”, “inquiry”) suggest those business days may follow the American calendar.
The opening times are convenient, even if carelessly expressed. (Why add a zero sometimes but not always? Why not drop all zeroes altogether?)
But which number to call? Sabine’s electric toothbrush has LEDs – does that make it a lighting product? Or is it a case for the skincare team?
Next, does that number really start with 00? If they hadn’t been so inconsistent with their zeroes before, we’d believe that the lighting experts have an international freephone number and their skincare experts a freephone number in the UK. Could be an accidental extra zero though. After all, there are also some extra spaces and lone hyphens.
Subject: Thanks for your message – Reference 123456789
This is just an automatic confirmation that we’ve received your email. Our Feeling a Ease team will get back to you within one business day.
If your question is more urgent, please give us a call.
- If it’s about lighting: 00800 7445 4775 (international freephone number)
- If it’s about skincare and body care: 0800 331 6015 (UK freephone number)
We’re here to help Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 6pm.
Please quote your reference number 123456789 when you call. This will help us find your email and answer your question more quickly.
With kind regards,
Your Feeling at Ease team
Example Customer Care
This is the message you sent us today:
[quotes customer email]