Customer Experience News & Trends

7 writing skills you’ll need to please customers

Get ready to write! Customers will increasingly type, not call, in the coming years.

While the majority of customers still plan on using the phone for critical issues, many more said they’ll use some sort of written communication to get help found recent research published by Zendesk.


  • 43% will use more email
  • 31% will use more online tools, and
  • 19% will chat more.

Get ready now

To get ready for the increase in written communication, front-line service and sales reps will need to be more proficient at reading and writing, says Leslie O’Flahavan, E-WRITE principal and author of Clear, Correct, Concise Email: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents.

Here are seven skills you’ll want your training to address so front-line reps can handle the rising demand.

1. Critical reading

Most written messages don’t come with as much explanation as we might like. But enough information is often there if we know how to read it with a critical eye.

Reps need to practice reading what customers say and discerning what those customers are actually asking. It can be a challenge because chat and email messages are often written quickly and without editing. So take time to regularly review common messages. It’ll help reps address the real issue on the first response.

2. Time management

Although we think of chat as an instant form of help, it’s not. Reps and customers often have to step away from the conversation (just like they would in a verbal exchange) to get information.

Good chat writers make it clear to customers when they need to wait momentarily. Customers should never have to type, “Are you still there?” Instead, when reps need time away from the conversation, they can say, “Please give me a moment to check that,” or “Please hold on for a minute while I look that up.”

3. Effective questioning

Although chat and email can feel less personal and thorough than a real conversation, good questioning during chat or email session can generate the same results as a good conversation.

Service pros want to mix matter-of-fact questions with open-ended questions to engage customers and uncover enough information to resolve the issue.

For instance, a rep might ask a mix of questions like these:

  • What key things are you looking for?
  • What result would you like to see?
  • When do you need delivery?

4. Empathy

It’s challenging to express emotions in written communication, especially fast forms such as chat. And emoticons can’t do what the spoken word can — nor should they be used in professional communications.

But some key phrases can help show empathy in writing, says O’Flahavan. When appropriate, reps want to use these:

  • You’re right.
  • I can definitely understand.
  • I can see your point.
  • That sounds difficult.

5. Humility

Sometimes the best way professionals can build credibility with customers is by admitting they don’t know everything. Rather than give customers advice that is questionable, it’s better to admit when the question or issue needs more attention.

If reps can’t solve it immediately with a solution they know is 100% right, they want to tell customers, “Let me check on this. It might take a more than a few minutes, but I want to make sure I have the most updated information. Can I contact you again in 15 minutes?”

6. Adaptability

Many issues and questions customers will write to you with are common — so a canned response is OK. Reps should use template responses that were designed to most effectively resolve common issues.

But they should also have the adaptability to move right into writing free text — because almost every customer question or issue is unique in some way.

7. Grammar and spelling

Chat and sometimes email are less formal than other forms of writing. But they’re still a professional exchange and should be treated as such.

Standard, formal sentences aren’t necessary in a fast-paced chat, but proper spelling and punctuation is a must for clarity.

Include spelling a grammar skill quizzes in training. Enable spelling and grammar checks, and encourage reps to use them.

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