If your venue uses standard replies to written queries, how much have you thought about their use?
Museums, galleries and heritage sites get a lot of the same queries again and again; to check basic details, asking for favours and complaints from people you’ll never be able to make happy.
A set of copy and paste responses save a lot of time and effort, especially if your emails are answered (as is increasingly the case) by staff performing multiple functions. However, their use should be carefully thought about, with the tone, and how and when they are used.
The key thing with a standard copy and paste reply is that it covers the details the customer needs, clearly and concisely. There is a temptation to cover a few points in one reply, if those queries often come in together. However, telling someone about opening times and the café menu (for example) in the same response makes their single query feel unvalued.
Point to where they can get more/teach them to fish.
Most emails which can be solved with a copy and paste response use details available on your venue’s website. In standard replies include a hyperlink such as “For more details to help your plan your visit see here” which takes them directly to the visit information area of your website.
Let your staff be human.
At our venue each staff member who replies to email queries has compiled their own standard replies. Rather than a standard issue soulless business sounding response, the information is imparted, but the tone is more natural and conversational.
Acknowledge that the query is from a human.
Our replies always begin by name, and staff often briefly call-back to something personal mentioned in the query email.“…check the website for future details. Hope your son and friends will enjoy their visit.” This takes a couple of seconds, but recognises the importance of the customer’s experience, and shows someone paid attention.
Take time where time is needed.
Some queries may cross the standard response line, either because they are unusual, or require a lot of information. There is a temptation to doctor a standard response a bit, or staple two together. Remember; copy and paste responses save you time, so you can use that time to pay more attention to the other emails.
Consider if something is broken.
Staff who respond to customer queries should be encouraged to log what the queries are. This can indicate if event details aren’t clear, if information is too hard to find online, etc, and therefore if you need to fix an issue at source which will reduce these repeat queries.
I've had this on my mind as a large museum just replied to my query with a copy and paste response email. I complimented their recent tours in detail, and asked if a certain venue would be considered for a future guided tour. I was informed that:
I wasn’t asking about current tours, nor about a tour I have tickets for, nor about ticket availability. Knowing about newsletters doesn’t relate to my query; it would if I was explicitly told to watch there for venues being announced. In short, they haven’t touched my question beyond it’s all “still to be confirmed” So is that venue one they are considering, not at all?...
The language is also a let-down, as if addressing a crowd of people rather than an individual. They have now annoyed a customer by making me feel worthy of only a few seconds, and suspecting that my original email was not read properly.
I email back asking for them to clarify – and they have therefore lost time as they have had to reply to me twice, rather than one email that does the job adequately.