When I’m not spouting nonsense (never), I work in customer service. A lot of that is responding to emails. While this is not the most prestigious job, I have been able to learn a few things from this.

  1. Since everyone is asking the same question, it makes sense to make a template response to the questions you get all the time.
  2. People don’t like when you give them template responses, because they’re not personal.
  3. To personalize responses you need to add a greeting, an empathy line, and specify the situation.

Templates increase efficiency by letting you just fill in blanks.

My base response to the second thing is, “Who cares?” If you get an answer that fits your situations, you should take it and like it. But then I started thinking about how that might relate to real life, and these same concepts hold true. I’ll explain using love for an example.

Personalizing Love

Most people can relate to love. Now, the template for love is “I love you.” This can be (and is) used in thousands of situations every day. Its personalization comes from the fact that it implies intimacy. You don’t love random people off the street…usually. But when it comes down to it, “I love you” is really not all that personal. Let’s see what happens when we use customer service tricks to personalize.

Step 1: Greeting

Daddy has no name

The greeting is pretty important to the overall message that you’re trying to send. You want the person to know that you read far enough into their email to find their name. “Hello” is different from “Hello John.” The same is true with love. If you don’t think names matter, try saying “I love you” to your significant other using the wrong name. Hilarity ensues. So, let’s add a name in and see what it does to the personalization. As I don’t have a significant other, we’re going to use my computer’s name as an example. “I love you, computer.” See? More personal already. It’s even better if you use pet names.

Step 2: Empathy Lines

And it feels good

An empathy line is a sentence that summarizes the reason for the email and makes you feel like the customer service agent cares. They usually start with “We understand” or “We appreciate” or “We apologize for the inconvenience.”  They end up sounding like, “We apologize for the inconvenience. The issue of us killing your mother has been escalated, and you’ll receive a response within 2 business days.” Hate. Empathy. Lines.  Anyway, back on point. You can add one of these to “I love you” to make it more personal. Summarize why you love them. “Compy [pet name], I appreciate and thank you for the companionship you have provided me over the last few years. I love you.” Much more personal.

Step 3: Specify the situation

The empathy line is good, but if you use it more than once, it’ll start sounding like a template. This is what we’re trying to avoid. To fix this, we specify the situation. In customer service you  might help someone with pricing. Your empathy line would reflect pricing, but in the body of the text you would give the product name. The same thing goes with love. Sure, you always appreciate their companionship, but why are you specifically telling them this now. “Compy, I appreciate and thank you for the companionship you have provided me over the last few years. I love you because your video card shows the most amazing detail when I’m looking at naked women on the internet. No one let’s me view porn like you do.”

Sure. It’s longer. That’s a lot of words (48 instead of 3) to use to express one feeling. But it’s that added description, those extra words, that make the difference between someone knowing that you love them versus not knowing if you’re just saying it out of habit. And knowing for sure will improve your customer satisfaction scores.

Other examples:

Grief:  “A bad thing happened to me today.”

You can say, “I’m sorry.” Or you can say,

I apologize that unfortunate events occur [empathy], Compy [greeting]. It makes me sad when bad things happen to you [specify].

Positive events: "I just got a new car.”

You can say, “Cool.” Or you can say,

I understand that getting a new car is awesome, Compy. It is very cool that you now have one.

Sex: Someone has just had sex with you.

You can say, “That was nice.” Or you can say,

I appreciate your participation in my getting laid, Compy. Please be advised that I would like to repeat this process in the future. If you have any further sexual concerns, please contact me back at (phone number).

Maybe forget that last one…