When Snippets Aren’t Enough

Great customer support balances personal attention with efficiency. There are times to tailor a reply to one particular customer just as there are times to send a quick snippet and move on. What’s tough is knowing which approach to use in a given situation.

I think of it as a matter of education versus process. If I need to teach a customer, I use a highly personal reply. If I need to share a process, then a snippet works just fine.

Snippets are great for process-oriented questions that follow a common pattern. It’s easy to fire off a helpful, standard reply once a customer simply has to take certain steps. Something like how long it takes a refund to go through or what steps a customer must take to close their account are a perfect time to use simple, consistent snippets.

Educational replies, though, aren’t well served by snippets. The problem is that a customer has yet to understand some key concept and turns to support to teach them. The gap can’t be closed in the same way for each person. If I just look for a common pattern and send a preset snippet I don’t reach the customer where they are. My job in support is to figure out how the customer thinks of the situation and relate things in a way that helps them build confidence.

When teaching a customer I need to pay attention to things like terminology and the level of detail I go into so that I write in a way they’ll understand. If I overwhelm them with details or make something sound technical and complicated, I’ll lose them. The same can happen if I’m too brief in a situation where they need more detail to relate to. It’s all about connecting my reply to where they’re coming from.

Sometimes this means relatively simple things like mirroring a customer’s language for a common term. It can also involve providing a metaphor or way of relating the new information about our product to something they already know and feel confident about. Or it can be as hands-on as writing out a sample message they need to send someone like their ISP who has to fix the issue.

Those steps add an important level of personal attention into a reply. Efficiency has a role to play, too, and snippets can be a real boost. But if you go through a queue matching pattern after pattern you quickly lose sight of the people on the other end of your responses. Much of the time they need help that’s more than just a process to follow, and that’s best accomplished with individualized care.