Is email dead? Perhaps in the SCRM world. If not, follow these email best practices

Consumers generally hate email for customer service - so much so that some analysts have said that email is dead, and has been replaced by the live assist channels like chat or SMS/MMS. Or in the new world, there is Twitter and customer service from Facebook.

Why does email get such a bad rap? It's because we don’t trust this channel – we have all had the experience of emailing a company’s customer service department and not getting an answer back. Or getting an answer that addressed only half of our question.

Email’s poor performance as a customer service channel is typically a result of the tool’s history.  These systems were typically deployed years ago and have had little care and feeding to maximize their productivity, or align operations to best practices.

Yet, customer service managers want you to use email. It’s a cheaper alternative than live-assist channels. And the automation features built into modern tools make email processing quick and reliable.

So, even with history working against you, if you are offering email to your customers, make sure it works. Follow these these basic steps to restore your customers' faith in this communication channel.

  • Make email part of your multichannel strategy - Don’t think of email as a siloed channel. Provide escalation pathways between your web self-service site and email, and be sure to have a single source of knowledge that is used across all your communication channels. That means that your customers will get the same answer across all touchpoints.
  • Keep your customers in the loop - from the time they send an email into you, to the time that they get an answer to their questions. Always send them an auto-acknowledgement letting them know you got their email. Tell them how long it will take to answer their email. And provide them with alternate contact channels if they want to get an answer right away.
  • Manage your email flow - so that you can meet your SLAs. Set and monitor up your workflows to ensure that emails get sent to the right skillset of agents. And staff each email queue with the right number of agents to make sure you meet your SLAs.
  • Use automation tools - like auto-responses, auto-suggestions to take the load off your agents.
  • Monitor, measure and optimize your email performance - And be flexible enough to change if you find yourself falling behind in your SLAs or quality of customer care.

Comments

Great Post, Kate

I would add a few things to your eMail best practices blog...(some of these apply to Social Media too)

- ensure policies, procedures and processes are in place to prevent email loss. (use archiving, logging, etc.)
- also policies and procedures around email usage, (do's and don'ts for agents), how do ensure the outbound message won't get spam filtered, how to respond, etiquette, etc.
- not just a parsing capability but a robust classification engine coupled with spam filtering to help with the auto-suggest/auto-reply you mentioned
- ensure that you can provide all of the information that agent requires "in context" when the email is delivered to the agent desktop; there is nothing more time- consuming for the agent than switching from system to system gathering info about the customer, past interactions, etc.

(btw, I especially liked the SLA, routing and queuing points you made)
Nice post!

Great Post -- We linked to it

Hi Kate,

My name is Tiffany Maleshefski and I am the editor of Zengage, the blog of Zendesk (www.zendesk.com), a web-based customer support software company. Wanted to let you know we linked to your column today.

http://www.zendesk.com/blog/category/found-this

If you'd ever like to guest blog for us or if we are able to syndicate some of your content regarding customer service on our site, please let me know.

Thanks!
Tiffany

Email medium is still Alive!

This is an eye opener.

As you started the blog by quoting email channel is dead for customer service, raises a concern. By knowing the ways to keep the process error free and acknowledging the customer, gives a hope to this mode of customer service. As this channel is free and easy to use, people will look forward to use this medium more often.

Small changes, by having dedicated teams to handle queries and resolution methods will help email communication for customer service more effective and leave a great impact.

Email is private.Big or small

Email is private.Big or small business uses email.A tool that is easy and inexpensive.Effective mail managing service will result to reach your business prospect with your clients.

With an email response

With an email response management system, everyone at your business can quickly respond to the emails that just seem to keep pouring in and will be communicated rapidly,efficiently and accurately.Effective email response management system is important because customers get attention they deserve.No one likes to wait.