In the customer business, scaling is a true concern. If we’re at our best when we are taking care of people one on one, then how to we scale that up when we have thousands or even millions of customers? For many people, outside of just expanding staff, is to create as many shortcuts as we can to answer to most common questions that come in. Widely known as macros, you can use these pre-written answers to quickly populate emails, support tickets, etc., to save time on responding to individual customers.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why the practice exists, and I’m not 100% against it. I just think we as people who take care of people should actually take the time to take care of people. I personally can spot a macro a mile away, and I imagine your customers can too. When you receive a canned response, how does that make you feel? Like the person responding to you truly cares about your issue and honestly wants to see it resolved? Or, like the person just sees you as another obstacle to punching their timecard at 5pm? I imagine it’s the latter, and it’s truly baffling to me that it’s such a commonly used practice.

When Macros Go Bad

Recently I was looking to cut back on some expenses, so the first thing I thought to cut was my home food delivery service. I emailed to tell them honestly why I wanted to cancel, praised the service and said I’d return once I could. The response I got was clearly a macro explaining to me how to cancel, but first saying “did you know you can pause the service for a week?” Yes, yes I did know that, but clearly you did not read my email as to why I wanted to cancel in the first place.

Truly all this person needed to do was write TWO EXTRA SENTENCES: an intro expressing some sort of empathy towards my situation, and an amendment to the sentence about pausing my account to make sure that I knew I could do that with a bit more understanding of the situation that I presented to them. Would’ve added 10, maybe 15 extra seconds to their day, plus I would’ve left with a far more positive experience than someone reading an email with the subject of “cancel”, and them responding with a canned macro that wasn’t 100% relevant.

People Deserve Better

As I said, I’m not totally against the use of macros, I’ve used them many times in the past. But the key is to use them as a framework for your response, not your entire response. While people might all have the same question, they are all different, and each deserve a response fitting of those differences. So come up with a general message that you’d want to impart to the customer, but add a personal touch. Put their name in the body of the response…”Unfortunately that’s not a current feature Matt” as opposed to “Hi Matt, “. Do anything you can to make it sound like you actually read their email/support ticket/tweet and respond to any according personality you see there. Refrain from the old tired cliches of “I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems, Matt” and “I see you’re having issues.” Have a conversation with them, engage with them, but most importantly, care about them.

People deserve to feel like there is an actual human being on the other end who cares about their issues, and not someone who just hit a button and generated a generic response. We as a collective can do better than that. It may only cost you 10 to 15 extra seconds of your day, but will mean so much more in the long run.