When it comes to providing a great experience for your customers, email is one of the strongest tools in your arsenal. You can tweak it, tinker with it, and tailor it to fit your exact needs.
That being said, a great email has a lot of moving parts. The first one you’ll encounter? How to begin your email. What greeting is most appropriate when responding to a customer query, sending requested information, or reaching out with a marketing message?
So to start, let’s get this out of the way: It’s always important to be polite, kind, and express appreciation for customers via email. That much is a given, and we’ve discussed it on the Outpost blog in the past. So, being pleasant and courteous is assumed.
But, the biggest thing that can make a difference? Acting like an actual human. In other words, making sure your emails are warm and sincere can make all the difference.
Email greetings work best when you keep things human
“Keeping things human” means that when you’re greeting a customer over email, it’s a good idea to inject some personality.
Depending on your business, stiff, standard openers like “Hello Ms. Johnson” and “Dear Mr. Smith” may come off as too robotic. If your goal is to appear fun and personable, an email that starts with “Dear Mr. Smith” isn’t going to give off that vibe. “Responses to emails are a little less personal than phone conversations,” says Stormy, one of our customer service advocates here at Palo Alto Software. “But, I still want them to take away from the interaction that I care.”
That being said, is your business more formal? If so, an overly casual greeting might be off-putting. It’s important to make sure your greeting matches your business’s voice and tone (we’ll get to that more in the next tip).
Whether or not your goal is to appear fun and casual, or professional and serious (or anywhere in between), the biggest key here is to come off as real, authentic, and sincere, as opposed to a cold email robot. Stormy also adds that being personable helps build trust, which ultimately helps establish a stronger relationship with customers. “If my greeting is cold, I might make them feel like I don’t have any real interest in solving their problem,” she says.
Making your email greetings feel more personable and human doesn’t have to mean a big change. It can look as simple as opening with “Hi” or “Hey” instead of “Hello,” or using the customer’s first name instead of their last name. If it aligns with your brand, super informal openers like “What’s up [First Name]” can also help your emails stand out and be memorable.
Determine your business’s “email personality”
When it comes to personality, note that I said, “if it aligns with your brand.”
If your brand doesn’t want to appear fun, a fun greeting isn’t the route to take. Still, steering clear of bland, stiff email greetings can help your email interaction with customers feel more personal. And, when it comes to using email as a customer service tool, being personal is essential.
To nail down exactly how you want your email voice to sound, spend some time creating an email voice and tone guide. Diane Gilleland, customer success specialist at Palo Alto Software (makers of Outpost), describes the voice and tone you use in your emails as your “company’s email personality.”
“Every communication–even the most routine one–is part of your company’s overall presentation,” she says.
If your business were a person, what would that person sound like? What kinds of words would they use? How would they greet you if you walked up to them and shook their hand? Again, personable doesn’t have to mean casual. Take some time thinking through what your desired email personality is, and who it sounds like. Then, use that to guide you while writing emails.
Get to know your customer really, really well
How does your customer want you to greet them?
Now, finding out the answer to this is part of establishing your email voice and tone. But, it’s important to double down on this exercise. It’s not just about being personable—it’s about being the right person. Getting your email personality right—and, by extension, honing in on the best email greetings—is key to email customer service. Your customers should come away from the email interaction going, “Wow, that was a great experience and exactly what I was after.”
Think about your target customer: How do they speak? How do they write emails? What do they prioritize in a business? Do they want a white glove treatment, or do they like feeling as though they’re part of the inner circle? Do they want a business that is cool, and talks to them like a friend? Or, do they want a business that sounds like a mentor, and calmly walks them through something confusing or challenging?
It can start to feel a little weird to personify your business like this, but it’s a really helpful exercise. Consider who your customer wants you to be, and then how that person would greet someone via email. Need more info on how to paint a clear picture of your customer? Check out our articles on creating a buyer or user persona and our guide to defining your target market.
Use autofill tools and templates thoughtfully
Nothing will take the sincere, human element out of an email like receiving an email that opens with “Dear Firstname.” This email mistake is a surefire way to leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth.
Now, does that mean avoid templates and tools that pull in customer information? Of course not. In fact, templates can be hugely useful when it comes to creating personal, thoughtful email responses while still optimizing your time. But, it does mean that you need to be careful and test out your tools on a regular basis. Making this mistake will sour a relationship quickly.
I wrote an article recently on how to avoid email mistakes (and unsend emails, if you absolutely have to), so check that out while we’re on the subject.
The pitfalls of not including an email greeting
Clearly, greeting a customer via email involves a little more thought than one might expect.
So, is it really even necessary? Can’t you just skip to the information?
While this might be acceptable in an interoffice email, it’s not the best move with customers. Skipping a greeting to customers will make your email come off as terse and impatient. Plus, it might even signal to customers that you don’t care about their problems.
Even a greeting with room for improvement is better than no greeting—which can make your business seem thoughtless at best, and disrespectful at worst.
Examples of email greetings for customers
As a note: It should go without saying that all types of emails can open with a simple “Hi,” “Hey,” or “Hello.” So, consider that suggestion applicable in all cases.
That said, here are some additional suggestions for email greetings you can use. You’ll find them organized by common reasons for emailing customers.
For marketing emails:
- Hi [First Name]/Hey [First Name]/Hello [First Name]
- Hey there [First Name]
- Hi there—we’ll keep this short!
- How’s your week going, [First Name]?
For status updates (such as order information), new members, or other customers who need a first message:
- Thanks for your order/booking/reservation, [First Name]!
- We’re happy you’ve decided to join us, [First Name]!
- [First Name], welcome!
For information request follow-up emails:
- Thanks for reaching out, [First Name]!
- We appreciate that you’ve taken the time to contact us!
- We’re happy to help, [First Name]!
For complaints, concerns, or unhappy customers:
- Thanks for bringing this to our attention, [First Name]
- We really appreciate that you reached out to us
- We’re so sorry that happened, [First Name]—thanks for letting us know.
The best way to greet customers will vary
Ultimately, the best email greeting for your customer base will be as unique as your customers and your business. And, it’s about getting to know them both as well as possible.
Good email communication is a matter of being as human as possible, which admittedly can be difficult with electronic forms of communication. Plus, emailing customers isn’t the only difficult part of professional email communication—it’s sometimes hard to know how to greet your colleagues or bosses via email too (and I’ll be covering that soon on the Outpost blog).
But by taking all the small nuances into account, it is possible to make email feel human, authentic, and integral to your customer’s positive experiences with your business.