When Messaging Is Mindless

The customer service representatives at XYZ Company include the sentence "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you" at the end of every email–at least on every email they send externally. 

When Ashlee, one of XYZ's customer service reps, writes to me for feedback on her business writing, her message always ends "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you." (Note: All names used here are fictitious.) When I asked Ashlee about the closing sentence, she said, "Our senior executive requires us to include it on every email." 

No doubt the executive wants the reps to communicate a consistent customer service message. But when does repetition become mindless rather than meaningful? After all, when Ashlee writes to me for feedback, I am providing a service to her–not the other way around. 

What if the senior executive directed the service reps to include that closing sentence only on messages to customers? Would that change make the sentence more sincere? 

I don't think that step is enough. 

If "Thank you for giving us the opportunity . . . " appears at the end of every email to customers, it may litter an email thread unnecessarily. Also, the obvious repetition would reveal the sentence as automatic rather than authentic.

If "Thank you for giving us the opportunity . . . " appears at the end of an email in which the service rep could not meet the customer's need, it may come across as ironic–or even sarcastic. It may encourage the customer to deny the "opportunity" next time. 

When sentences like "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you" appear constantly, they detract from a company's efforts to make customers feel special and important. They ring hollow, like the infamous voicemail message "We are unable to answer your call, which is important to us." 

I recommend having customer service agents end their emails a variety of ways, choosing the way that suits the individual message. To reduce the time it takes to compose a sentence, service reps may have a menu of closing auto-messages to choose from. Here are just 10 possibilities: 

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to resolve this situation for you. 
  2. Thanks for the opportunity to help. 
  3. I am [or We are] always happy to help. 
  4. It was a pleasure to help you. 
  5. It is a pleasure to serve you. 
  6. Please let me [us] know if you have any other questions. 
  7. Please let me [us] know if you need anything else. 
  8. We value your business and are always happy to serve you. 
  9. It was a pleasure working with you. 
  10. We are available 24 hours a day if you have any other questions.

Any of the examples above can include the customer's name, followed by a comma, at the beginning of the sentence; for example, "Dr. Adams, I am glad we were able to solve this problem for you." 

What do you think about repetition in customer service messages, as either a customer or a service provider? 

If you would like to assess and improve your writing skills, I am teaching a business writing course in Seattle on October 20 and online on December 4 and 5. I would appreciate the opportunity to serve you. (I intend just a hint of irony in that closing sentence.) 

Lynn
Syntax Training 

11 COMMENTS

  1. The same mindless messaging is used in customer service calls.

    Depending on my mood, I dismiss it as rhetoric – not the “effective” kind 😉 – or I get annoyed at the response-by-rote nature of the words.

    I like the idea of sharing examples of a professional response; however, even the sincere becomes mindless.

    I’m fine, how are you? 😉

  2. I agree. Unless the message is personalized it comes across as insincere. Another message I hate getting on the phone is “please listen carefully, as we have changed our menu options.” Why do I have to be told to listen carefully? Do I need to know they changed their menu options?!

  3. This post is excellent. I work as a customer service representative at a technology company and primarily interact with my customers via email, so this is extremely relevant to me. I completely agree that “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you” would come across very poorly if I were delivering bad news, and repeating it in every single email in a long thread is unnecessary at best and possibly irritating to the customer. I love the 10 examples of other closing messages.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise, Lynn- as always, I so appreciate it!

  4. Hi, Cathy. I’m fine, and you?

    Just kidding. Your talk about phone calls makes me think (guiltily) about how impatient I can become when a sales caller goes through a rote spiel, with little regard for how I am responding. It would be refreshing if, for once, the caller would say, “Okay, I’ll get to the point of this call.”

    Lynn

  5. Hi, Jeannette. Yes, personalization is powerful–as long as we get the other person’s name right. I bet yours is often misspelled. (Whenever I have written to my Aunt Jeanette, I have needed to look up HER spelling of your name.)

    I believe “Please listen carefully, as we have changed our menu options” can be helpful within 30 days of menu changes. That announcement stops people from pressing the wrong keys out of habit. But when the “Please listen carefully” command continues, it can come across as a parental-sounding time waster.

    Lynn

  6. After the death of a family member, we had to work out some insurance issues related to the end-of-life care. We received multiple letters from the insurance company, addressed directly to the deceased person, with the complimentary close of “We wish you good health!” I know it’s just a form letter, but it was somewhat jarring to say the least.

  7. Love what you write and the way you educate others, especially on business communication / writing. Lynn, you must be an awesome trainer, I can tell already!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here