A deeper dive into an email service failure

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post detailing a service failure I experienced via email. I had contacted the office that runs the indoor soccer league I play in to get my team’s schedule for the upcoming season. My blog post summarized the exchange and offered an analysis of what went wrong along with some tips for improving responses to customer service email.

What happened next was an unexpected surprise. A colleague emailed to point out what I could have done as a customer to receive better service. Over the next few weeks, I showed it to participants in several of my customer service classes and they had similar observations. (You can read the original post here and see if you can spot what I could have done better.)

A small misunderstanding
Many email service failures start with a small misunderstanding. The customer doesn’t provide enough detail in their email or perhaps explains the problem poorly and then the customer service rep misinterprets what the customer is looking for.

Of course, you can’t put the onus on your customers to improve their communication. What you can do is take the time to read each email and ensure you fully understand what’s being asked before responding.

Unseen pressures that lead to poor emailing
The big question then is why don’t people take more time to read and understand emails before responding? We know that these small misunderstandings can lead to unnecessary back and forth, wasted time, and ultimately customer aggravation. So why don’t companies do more to fix it?

With the help of several participants in my training classes, I was able to put together a list of possible reasons why people don’t take enough time to properly respond to customer service emails.

  • Yabba Dabba Do. It’s late in the day and their brain has already clocked out.
  • Time crunch. They are rushing to get through a mountain of email.
  • Text happy. They learned all their emailing skills from text messaging.
  • Distractions. They are too distracted to give the email their full attention.
  • Reading skills. Their reading comprehension is less than what it needs to be.

I’m sure this is only a partial list of reasons why customer service reps don’t often take the time to see past small misunderstands and figure out what their customers really want. What other reasons would you add to the list?