This is the time of the year when you're probably getting at least a dozen emails that go like this:
“When will my order arrive?”
“Can I get this custom order on time for Christmas?”
“I ordered this yesterday. Why hasn't it shipped yet?”
If any of these look familiar to you, you know that handling your shop's customer service emails can be frustrating and time consuming.
Especially when you might “ruin someone's Christmas” – yes! I've gotten that one too. (Thankfully my customer found her lost package in her yard because it had been so windy…)
Now more than ever, you need some guidelines, tips and tricks for managing your emails more effectively and efficiently so that when you sit at the dinner table surrounded by family members, you're not cracking like a nut.
Here are five ways you can deal with emails more efficiently to save time and your sanity this holiday season!
Use Canned Responses
If you use Gmail, (and I really hope you do because it's the best!) you can use a feature called “Canned Responses“.
Canned Responses allows you to save text snippets so you can easily paste them into future emails.
You can name your Canned Responses anything, like “When Will My Order Arrive response” or “Custom Orders Closed response” so you can easily sort through and identify your best response for a customer's email.
If you don't have Canned Responses set up, you'll need to go to Settings in Gmail > Labs and search for Canned Responses. Then click to Enable it. You may need to refresh your Gmail for it to kick in.
Once you have it installed, Canned Responses will be available in every email compose window at the bottom right corner. Click the down arrow and Canned Responses will be there.
The tricky part with Canned Responses is getting into the habit of using it, and being okay and comfortable with dishing out canned responses to your customers.
It may feel like you're cheating… or that it might as well be faster to just type out a response than it would be to practice using Canned Responses.
But like with everything, practice makes perfect.
And Canned Responses can cut down on your email handling times significantly.
It'll be worth it!
Touch it once rule
The term “Inbox Zero” was coined by Merlin Mann and his goal of achieving and maintaining zero emails in his inbox.
I'm constantly striving for Inbox Zero… but most days if I can get it down to five emails, I'm happy!
One strategy for reaching Inbox Zero is with the Touch It Once rule.
Instead of reading through all your emails and coming back later to respond to them, you do this:
The second you click on an unread email, you need to take action.
Action could be any of the following:
- Archive (no response needed)
- Delete (and unsubscribe if necessary)
But for me, this is all I need.
Hit the ball back into their court to delay taking action
Sometimes you're checking emails with only a couple minutes to spare.
You just don't have the time to handle a return, exchange or to create an order for someone over email right now.
Procrastination, we all do it. We're only human, right?
Here's a fantastic trick I learned from my friend Stacey Trock at Fresh Stitches.
Assuming you've got the Touch It Once rule down pat, this tip plays along with that very nicely.
When you get an email that requires you to do extra tasks beyond simply responding, send a reply anyway asking for more information.
This helps delay your need to take action now, but in essence you are still providing excellent customer service by responding quickly.
Customer: I'd like to place an order but would like to receive it by next week. Will it make it on time?
You: Hi! Which items were you looking at? I'll need to check its availability. If we have it in stock it should arrive by next week!
Customer: I didn't really like this necklace I bought. Could I exchange it with something else?
You: Sure! Before I go ahead and create a prepaid shipping label for you, what's your order ID? You can also let me know the name or email address used to place your order.
See what I did there?
You're servicing the client… without really providing a full solution.
This buys you just a little bit more time while keeping your inbox clean!
Remove yourself from the equation
Part of dealing with emails more efficiently involves not getting too caught up or taking things personally.
Sometimes an angry email can set you back and steal hours from your day from the emotional distress.
Upset customers can take a toll on you, especially since you work so hard to design and create your own products.
A mental hack I've used to get over this through the years is by removing yourself from the equation.
Treat yourself like an employee to your business.
This is the persona I take:
I am Mei, an employee of my business Tiny Hands. Tiny Hands is my boss.
The moment you're able to create that mind shift, it gets a lot easier to be objective and less emotional with handling customer service emails.
This helps you provide amazing customer service because you'll be less defensive and it'll save you time.
Have you ever sent an email to the support staff for a techy app, software or program that you use?
You'll often receive an email reply immediately that acknowledges your question and that you can expect a response within 24-48 hours.
You can use autoresponders in that same way so your customers know their email went through okay.
Autoresponders come with most email services and can be set up easily.
Include some extra info, like your frequently asked questions.
More often that not, your customers' questions can be answered with an FAQ section in your autoresponder.
Automating part of your emails will cut down on the time you spend managing them.
Do you have any extra tips?
Let me know in the comments if you have any extra tips to share on how to deal with emails!