I have a secret to tell you. It’s a secret that can improve the lives of every single person who reads this post … writers and non-writers alike.
A secret that Chip Kelly would appreciate.
Who’s Chip Kelly? He’s a proud, notoriously pithy football coaching wizard who cast a four-year spell on college football with his special brand of offensive alchemy. Kelly conjured up an astounding 46-7 record at the University of Oregon before becoming the head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
The key to Kelly’s success is his “fast break” style of offense. And if the phrase “fast break” seems odd to use in the context of discussing football, it should. It’s a basketball term.
Yet Kelly found a way to apply a principle from basketball to the football field by attacking opponents with a quick tempo and an efficient choreography of movement.
What does any of this have anything to do with copywriting?
Well, I’m going to show you how to apply the principles of copywriting to a place where they might not seem to fit.
But they do.
What do we all have in common?
Some of you reading this don’t have much experience with football. Some of you know nothing about basketball. Some of you might just be starting out as writers.
But I know that there’s something you, me, and every other person reading this post has in common: We deal with customer support on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, many of these experiences are likely to be less than satisfactory. Many take more time and cause more frustration than they ever should.
This is, in part, because many companies are just no good at support. Good customer support is hard. If it were easy, everyone would provide it.
But let’s not worry about what we can’t control.
Doing so saps us of “energy that could be better spent elsewhere.” Let’s worry about what we can control, which is how we frame our written customer service requests.
And this is where we all can benefit from the techniques of effective copywriting.
Think about it: Copywriting is designed to get the reader to take a specific action. In other words, it’s simply the art of convincing another person to do something.
And that’s what you need when you submit a support ticket for a problem you’re having. Maybe you need something fixed. Maybe you want a refund. Maybe you desperately need a question answered. You’re submitting your request because you want some specific action done. And you want it done quickly and competently so you can get back to writing! (Or whatever else it is you do.)
You have two choices: you can submit your request casually, as if you were emailing a friend or family member … or you can submit tight, clean, persuasive “copy” that gets your request handled immediately and accurately, and that puts you on the unwritten but real ‘Give This Customer’s Future Requests Priority’ List.
How to get on the customer support VIP list
In addition to the optimized performance and lockdown security that we provide, what separates Synthesis from other hosting companies is our customer service. I know this because so many of our customers have told me so, and I know it because I’m in our Help Desk myself providing support every single day.
I take great pride in providing excellent support. Our entire team does. And for your benefit, as well as ours, we want to provide this excellent support in the most efficient manner possible.
But let’s be frank here: not all customer support requests are created equal. Some are clear, concise, and easy to act on. Others are verbose and downright confusing.
Our goal is to solve as many support requests as we can … as quickly as possible. While we eventually get to all requests, and we treat all requestss with the same level of care and concentration, customers who consistently submit clear and easily actionable tickets make it easy to quickly get them what they need.
What could this mean for you? The difference between a 20-minute response time and a 3-hour response time. Or the difference between a request that is completed with one reply and a frustrating one that requires days of back-and-forth to solve.
I’ve seen it all, which is why I can speak with Authority on this topic. (See what I did there?)
And I guarantee you that following three pieces of advice will improve your customer support experience, no matter if it’s web hosting, online banking, gaming, or otherwise.
1. Write a subject line that works
Most help desks will ask you to include a subject line, or a brief description of the issue you are seeking to solve. So write a clear, compelling subject line that works.
From the realm of web hosting, here’s an example of a bad help ticket subject line:
WTF? My website is having issues! HELP!
And here’s an example of a good subject line:
Website whitescreening after upgrading plugin
The first example suggests to me that the request will be frantic, disjointed, and possibly even obtuse. I’ll get to it, but there is no way I’m opening it before I’m opening example two. Just from the subject line of that one, I have a pretty good idea of how to fix the issue.
Additionally, the more “keywords” you can use in the subject line the better. Chances are, more than one person is perusing help desks for tickets, and different people have different areas of expertise. The easier it is to route a ticket to the correct person, the quicker the response time is likely to be.
2. Make your body (copy) lean
Your subject line is the key to your ticket being opened quickly. How you present the details of your request in the body of your message is the key to it getting solved quickly.
So be lean about it.
And save the stories for the dinner table.
Yes, just like Chip Kelly had to modify a basketball strategy for the football field, you have to modify a copywriting strategy for customer support. Stories work great in normal copywriting. They are essential, in fact. But they are anathema to support staff members trying to quickly get to the heart of the issue and the action being requested.
For example, it isn’t important that you saw a really cool social sharing feature on your friend’s website … so your developer recommended a plugin … and then you had trouble finding it before downloading, uploading, activating … and then, WTF? … your site whitescreened!!!
All that needs to be said is:
I activated XYZ plugin and my site whitescreened.
Lean. Essential details.
And make sure that you do include all of the essential details.
- If you see a specific error message, include it.
- If your screen is doing something funky, take a screenshot and send it.
- Specific to hosting: if you changed any settings, or if you installed or edited any plugins or themes before the issue occurred, say so.
Bonus Tip: While we’re on the subject of essential details, be sure to include as much identifying information about yourself and your account as you can. Any time support staff members have to spend looking up your basic info just to know where to start is time they are not troubleshooting.
3. Include a clear call to action
Remember, you’re submitting a customer service request because you want something done. So make sure to request the action clearly and unmistakably.
You need to tell your reader exactly what to do … and that you want her to do it right now. Don’t be vague.
Granted, you may not know exactly what the problem is when you submit your initial request, but be clear that you are requesting troubleshooting support and include any steps that you have already taken.
If you do know exactly what you want the support staff member to do, then say exactly that. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t assume the person reading your support ticket is going to infer the call to action from context clues. That’s not good copywriting! Be clear in your call to action.
And, for good measure, somewhere near the call to action let the support staff member know that you appreciate his or her efforts.
But they are just doing their jobs, you might say. True, but if your goal is to get them to do their jobs as quickly and competently as possible for you, a little gratitude can go a long way.
Trust me, it’s appreciated at the time, and it’s remembered the next time a ticket is submitted with your name on it.
As it is when your calls to actions are clear.
As it is when your requests are lean and properly detailed.
As it is when your subject line works.
So, today we’ve learned that basketball techniques can work on football fields and that copywriting techniques can work in help desks. Who knew?
Well, now you do. And you’ll benefit from this post soon, because it won’t be long before you have to submit a customer service request somewhere.
And do you know who else can benefit from the tips in the post? Every single person who hasn’t read it. Because needing customer support is universal, as is benefiting from any and all efficiencies that can be added to the process.
So please don’t be selfish with your new secrets. Share them. We’re all in this together.