Beanplating here: how to close an email thread with customer support?
May 18, 2020 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Imagine you buy something on the Internets, but shipping is delayed, and your receipt indicates that you should reach out to customer support to get an updated ship date. You do that and they send you an email (or emails) sorting things out. Do you (or should you?) close out the thread by following up with another email, just to say thank you?

Exactly what it says on the tin. Feels like kind of a silly question, but I have a lot of time on my hands as a result of the pandemic, and I figured I could at least clear this up. I've never worked in the customer support field, but I want to do the right thing in these situations.

To me, if handling things in-person or over the phone or even in a chat, the answer would be obvious—just say thank you. But I don't know if that also applies to the case where everything is handled asynchronously over e-mail. Part of me feels like sending out a thank-you email—and adding yet another email to their queue—would just be giving the agent extra work to do. But then again, saying thank you's the right thing to do. And I don't know, but maybe there are metrics tracked by CRM platforms that would make sending a thank-you email helpful to the agents in some way. As well as other things I'm sure I haven't considered.
posted by un petit cadeau to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you send a thank you and explicitly say "thanks, that worked, we can close the case now" that will improve metrics on most modern helpdesk platforms. Otherwise there's usually a no-response timeout that has to expire before they can close it, sometimes having to reach out one last time.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:33 PM on May 18 [6 favorites]

Yes. You say thank you. You do your best to bring a touch of humanity to our world.

Even if some reclusive automated martech troll lurking and sniffing your conversation gets a whiff of you, they already have everything else in the discussion; you are now simply modeling good manners.

FWIW, the rep on the other end of the line is almost certainly poorly paid and managed to unrealistic goals around closing requests quickly and leaving customers happy. Saying "thanks" is a way to help them out when the machine looks for who to fire next. If they helped you, and you have gratitude, simple empathetic humanity suggests typing the six letters needed and pressing send.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:34 PM on May 18

Having worked on the receiving end of ticketing systems, my feeling is that getting a "thanks" is just one more ticket I need to close out, so mildly annoying in that sense. But also it's rare that people are polite enough to say "thank you" in online interactions, so I'm not so annoyed by it as I otherwise might be by an "empty" (i.e. not calling for any action) ticket - and closing out a "just thanks" email ticket isn't a particularly time-consuming process. I'm not aware of any system that tracks "thanks" emails as a metric, though I haven't experienced the entire available set of ticket management software, of course. I do know of at least one company who has a slack channel where they share positive comments they receive after they resolve something, as a morale booster.

That all said, I don't send thank-yous of this type unless the CSR went out of their way for me, because I don't want to create extra work for them. But I wouldn't hate you if I was the CSR and got a "thank you" from you, either.
posted by Hold your seahorses at 2:34 PM on May 18 [11 favorites]

As someone who has worked in customer service (both phone and email) in the past, definitely do send a thank you email. Typically the software the agent uses allows them to mark a conversation as "resolved". If they don't hear back from you, they may not be able to "resolve" it until a certain amount of time has passed. So letting them know that it's been resolved takes away mental load.

Also, sometimes they're rated on how quickly they solve an issue, and your response can help that.

Lastly, you do not know how nice it can be to get a positive, polite, "thanks" email in with the loads of angry, confused, frustrated emails. Sometimes answering emailed questions can feel like yelling into the void, and it helps to hear from a real live person that you are appreciated.
posted by rogerroger at 2:36 PM on May 18 [9 favorites]

Generally it is good for the support tech if you clarify that the issue is resolved to your satisfaction (and the quicker, the better). As Lyn Never points out, this is due to the metrics that are measured by most helpdesk platforms. At the same time, however, every time I've interacted with one of those it was obvious because (1) I got a case number and/or form email that made it clear this was something more than an informal conversation with a support tech, and (2) the techs were pretty aggressive about asking for such closure (understandably, of course). If you haven't seen evidence of that sort of metrics-usage, maybe it doesn't matter.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:36 PM on May 18

honestly, if your entire reply is "thanks!" or similar please do not add to the noise. it's one more email i have to log and deal with even if no reply back to you is needed. and some companies will require that i reply to your "thanks" which is just fucking exhausting.

if the CSR did an exceptional job or something like that, it is super great of you to send an email saying that as it's appreciated and maybe gets added to their file. but otherwise, just do not add to the noise.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:50 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]

You can also reply to a help-desk e-mail with the subject line "Ticket 5454427TRD" and alter the subject line so it says "Re:Ticket 5454427TRD - SOLVED! Perfect, thanks!!!" and delete all the actual text in the message so they don't need to check the body of the e-mail for additional questions. This will speed up their processing time.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:02 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]

I normally don't send the final thanks. But sometimes (and this applies to phone calls with tech support more so than email but it could apply to both), if I've had great service I'll add "hey - thanks for your help - do you have a survey or something I can fill out to give you some great feedback" or I guess you could say "hey thanks for all your help - appreciate your support - feel free to forward this ticket to your manager - you did a great job" which may prevent having to fill a survey out.

I dd this for an agent at the IRS the other day - I asked to speak to their manager to tell them how helpful the agent had been. The agent was so surprised (evidently they don't get a lot of escalations to managers for praise) it almost took him longer to get a manager on the line so I could give the feedback then my original query had been.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 3:32 PM on May 18

I seem to be in the minority in that I find “thanks” messages irritating, whether in a ticketing system or by regular email. What I will say is that, if you do decide to send it, say something more than just “thanks”. That adds no value and just wastes time. And don’t say something like “I never would have thought of that!” Of course you wouldn’t have; that’s why you reached out to the support team. Meanwhile, support is trained and expected to think of that. Add something to the conversation by praising them in an unexpected way. One of the most memorable emails I ever got was someone telling me I reminded her of her kids. Another person responded, cc’ing my boss, and said “you deserve a raise!”, to which I responded “the customer is always right”.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:22 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

As someone who's worked in and managed support teams and call centers across a few industries: it really depends on that company's specific metrics, software, and processes.

Pros: Getting back a positive definitive confirmation from a customer makes it easy to close out a case quickly, so the case isn't sitting open and the resolution timeclock isn't ticking away. It also saves some less quantifiable time for those folks who go back and check their open cases every day--if yours isn't in the queue any longer because you made it clear it could be closed, that's one less case to check. And, y'know, it's reassuring to know you solved someone's problem, and it's just a nice human touch.

Cons: On the other hand, sometimes (either because of standardized human process or software automation) your case is closed after the agent's last interaction with you, regardless of whether they have confirmation your issue is resolved. Sending back a "Thanks!" reopens the case, which is not just a minor annoyance but also increases handle time--and call centers that track handle time tend to care a LOT about it, it's a primary metric agents are held to and the 30 seconds it takes to open, read, and close the case could make or break an agent's metrics for that period.

You don't have any way of knowing which is which unless you know people who work at that specific company's specific call center, and you can't ask during a support interaction--it puts the agent in a very awkward position, and in some call centers frown heavily upon them sharing that info.

So given the unknown, I recommend erring on the side of the human kindness when it feels right to respond (sometimes it just won't and that's okay!), and when it does, make sure there's some content that makes it worth it. Not just "Thanks!" but "Thanks, that worked!" (definitive confirmation your issue is resolved) or "Thanks, that menu was really hard to find!" (confirmation + useful feedback for their product team), or "Thanks, you really saved my bacon today, I appreciate your clear and helpful response" (direct positive feedback).

And of course, the very best thing you can do for a customer support agent is to answer the survey, give a positive response, and if you're so moved to do so, leave a comment with specific praise that includes their name. Do that and none of the above really matters. :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:34 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

When I worked in customer service, i haaaated "Thanks!" emails. We got dinged for re-opened tickets, and the "Thanks" messages counted the same as someone who's issue legitimately wasn't resolved on the first try.

Seconding answering the survey if available, and mentioning the rep by name for a job well done. When I got promoted to the person that reviews those, it really made a difference to management when someone consistently got notes about how they helped.
posted by little king trashmouth at 7:11 AM on May 19

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