I got a little irritated by an email I received this week.
Not the whole email, just the last couple of lines. The signoff read simply, and completely, this:
(Names have been changed to protect the questionably innocent)
It’s not the first time I’ve had this sort of email sign-off, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s also not the first time it’s irked me, and certainly won’t be the last.
Something about the overly-truncated “Best” to close out an email seems dismissive. It’s a strong closure. And, to me, it also carries the undercurrent implication that you’re too important to afford me the six or seven more keypresses that might elicit a
“All the best”.
Even a fairly cursory “Thanks” is only two characters longer, and yet much more pleasing a sentiment and tone.
I headed over to the #vent channel on my beloved Support Driven community and, well, vented. It’s a pretty safe place, and I thought it might elicit a little murmur of agreement or disagreement, but otherwise pass by unnoticed.
In fact, that thread is currently running at 150+ responses and is still going.
It seems the world, at least in the microcosm of Support Driven, is divided pretty much 50-50. Some hate “Best”. Some love it.
The haters all agree that it seems distant, dismissive, lazy, rude, superior, arrogant, or any combination of those.
#TeamBest tends to see it as some odd mix of professional, casual, quirky, positive and intentionally noncommittal. Above all, they felt it was a good alternative to what they perceived to be older, overly archaic options such as “Regards”.
While I don’t entirely agree, I do see their point. Emailing is, of course, the granddaddy of virtual communications, but that doesn’t mean we should all start constructing our missives with the same structure and care we’d give to a well crafted and beautifully enveloped snail mail to our favourite great aunt. Nobody needs to see “Yours sincerely” in this context.
Neither, though, does it mean that virtual communication should be short for the sake of it. And, I think that’s how “Best” comes across. Its truncated sentiments imply truncated attention, and carry an over-eagerness to be out of the conversation as quickly as possible.
And, as the closing line of an email, it’s how you’ll risk being remembered. As someone who didn’t take the time. It’s a bitter aftertaste that taints whatever the content of the email might have been.
The email that inspired my #vent was not an entirely positive one, and you might wonder if that’s what pushed me to blurt my discontent in the appropriate channel. But, as if to validate my vexations, I received a lovely message from elsewhere half a day later. They were giving me a full refund. But they signed it “Best”. I was still left with the impression that they wanted to be rid of me. (And maybe they did, but don’t ever give your customers that notion, please).
In a customer service context, this is a vitally important moment that can sway the customer’s opinion of the whole service experience. The beginning and end of every service interaction acts as a pinpoint on the journey. You can weave (almost) whatever story you need to tell in the course of that transaction, but if you mess up the beginning or the end points, then you significantly sway the whole experience. If you do nothing else, you should nail your starts and finishes to the “positive” pole.
In broader terms, CX professionals are used to looking for the ‘pleasant end’. Driven by the concept of the Peak-end Rule, they understand that what customers take away most from any experience is the most emotional highpoint and how it ended. They strive to make the emotional peak a positive one, and the ending pleasant.
Endings are significant, and memorable.
It’s shocking how little thought is given to the small micro-transactions that make up your wider customer journey. Each email your support team sends is a micro-experience. It should always, always, end pleasantly.
In fact, data backs up the positive ending theory even down to an email sign-off. If email replies solely were a measure of engagement and success, then these stats show something around a 34% increase in positive responses to emails that were signed off in some manner that expressed a simple “Thanks” over “Best” and its buddies.
I’m thankful for that data, too, because it backs up my refutation of one theory proposed on the long #vent. That is, that this was a British predisposition. If anything, both anecdotally on the thread, and this data, both confirm this is a behaviour pattern and preference that is cross-cultural (at least, in the English-speaking world). Cultural preferences abound, of course, and we need, as far as we can, to build a great experience that works in any language. No easy task.
But, one step at a time. Ultimately, I doubt I’ll sway the opinion of 50% of you with this one article. But I encourage you to give more thought to your sign-offs. This is an easy task. If you’re happy with your sign-offs, either personally or organisationally, in your one-off emails or in your customer communications templates, then stick with them. But do craft them intentionally. Your customer relationships might just depend on it.
Your endings could create better experiences, and more happy endings.
This article first appeared on my Linkedin publications in June 2019