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For so many customers, texting is the preferred mode of communication, and catering to that preference is a great step. But sometime’s it’s difficult to read customers just based on a text. Well, the feeling can be mutual. Here are some ways to ensure your words don’t get lost in translation.

Text messaging is essentially a new language, and when learning a new language, you have to adapt to accompanying cultural norms. In this case, cultural norms haven’t been solidified yet, but they are getting closer to that point. In comedian (and now romantic thought leader?) Aziz Ansari’s recent book Modern Romance, he focuses on how we leave a lot to be desired when it comes to texting in our personal lives. We often leave the person we are texting confused about what we really mean and the appropriate way to respond.

Ansari did some fairly extensive research for the book, and he addresses that while there is “no official guidebook anywhere on texting yet,” he still “repeatedly found that one text can change the whole dynamic of a budding relationship.” He discusses the appropriate use of emoticons, punctuation marks, and the utmost importance of excellent grammar. Of course, he’s referring to the dating world but it does beg the question of how our texting voice in customer support affects our relationships with customers. Below are some insights to help ensure that your text conversations leave your customers feeling as content as can be.

First and foremost, stay professional. But a little emotion and empathy goes a long way.

Maintaining a professional tone that is aligned with your company’s communication guidelines is the most important consideration. However, if there is room for an exclamation point or two, that can be really well-received. A study done last year by Binghamton University concluded that text message “responses that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than those that did not end with a period.” This is not to suggest using emoticons and exclamation marks at the end of each sentence, but keep it light and make sure your customers know that you are taking the time to understand them and their situation. And when in doubt, don’t punctuate at all. Period.

If you need to research the customer’s answer or consult with another employee, keep the customer in the loop and check back frequently.

Transparent and open communication is so important, especially when you aren’t able to see or hear customers’ voices to gauge their reactions to whatever news you have relayed to them. And there’s nothing worse than waiting to hear back with no explanation. Ansari repeatedly references the pain that people go through when all of the sudden, amid a fluid conversation, their last text message is left hanging out to dry. If you are indeed using a chat function, don’t ghost!

Pay attention to those read receipts.

Through Helpshift, you can see if the customer has read your response, same as a standard iMessage. Use this tool! If the customer has not read the message, send a follow up response after an appropriate amount of time has passed that addresses your prior response. And even if they have read the message, don’t shy away from asking if there is anything else you can assist them with. That leads into the final point…

If it’s feasible within your company, invite the customer to continue the conversation with you directly.

There’s nothing worse than having to explain a problem from scratch. You’ve already developed a relationship with the customer, so make sure you do everything in your power to continue it. Hopefully you were able to resolve his or her problem the first time, but if something else arises (related or unrelated), having a specific person to speak with who already “knows” you can make a huge difference for the customer’s impression of the company.

Being a better texter is a really admirable New Year’s resolution for a lot of people in their personal lives. And Helpshift’s messaging feature makes customer interactions feel like personal iMessage conversations. So why not work on becoming a more proficient texter in the workplace as well, and create more positive relationships all around?

Published January 10, 2017
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