Email customer service may not be new, but it remains popular. According to ContactBabel’s 2023 ANZ Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide, it is the most used digital channel and accounts for 16.5% of all interactions – second only to the telephone in both Australia and New Zealand – and use is increasing. Therefore, businesses must prioritise delivering efficient, effective customer service to cater for the people who prefer to use this channel.
Benefits of Email communication for your Customers
Consumers of all ages and demographics value the sheer convenience of email. You can send an email at any time, from anywhere, on any device. There’s no need to speak to a live agent, making it popular with younger demographics who often want to avoid picking up the phone. It’s also asynchronous rather than real-time, meaning the customer is not tied to the device waiting for someone to answer, unlike a telephone call or chat session.
Email is also perfect for the increasing number of customers who have complex queries. With email, they can provide detailed information about their enquiry and attach documents and images. Agent responses can include relevant website links. Also, email delivers a full, easily accessible audit trail of the enquiry, providing added peace of mind for consumers.
The Advantages of Email communication for your Business
Email offers organisations the advantage of providing choice for their customers and is, usually, considerably cheaper than the telephone channel. It is also easier to manage. While your team needs to respond to emails in a timely fashion, it is not real-time, so there’s time to find relevant information before answering, making it less pressured than a phone call.
Emails are straightforward to track and forward to other team members. As a digital channel it is inherently easier to automate processes (for example with AI) to increase efficiency. It’s also more private than channels such as social media which means customers can share some personal/account information without needing to go through full security checks. At the same time, data is fully protected using the same security as the rest of the contact centre.
The Advantages of Integrated Email communication
There are three typical ways to offer email as a customer services channel, with varying levels of integration with your Customer Service operation.
Email can be:
- Simply a shared mailbox in your standard business email system (eg., Microsoft Exchange/Outlook/365). Agents need to proactively go into the mailbox and retrieve emails.
- Part of your CRM system. Again, it requires proactive management that is independent of other contact centre functions.
- Integrated with your contact centre technology so that it simply operates as an another channel, alongside voice, web chat, SMS, video and so on.
What are the benefits?
- Instead of requiring agents to proactively visit a separate application – where, it must be said, they can cherry-pick the interactions they choose to deal with based on personal inclination rather than disciplines such as time of arrival or customer priority – emails are routed and delivered to agents based on the rules that your organisation deems important, not what is preferable to any given agent.
- Administration is consistent with the way you manage your voice and other channels. Instead of logging an IT ticket, you and your own team can configure and adjust routing, priority, automatic announcements and more – as needed.
- And the most critical benefit for any operation: Analytics. Intelligence for the business that again is accessible to your own leaders, and can be delivered as a single channel or a total operation – by Agent, Team, Queue, Channel, Wrap-up Code… and more.
Best practice – 5 ways to deliver on email customer service
As we hear over and over, today’s customers want faster, more comprehensive responses via email, with every channel. So, how do you meet their needs?
1. Make Email easy for Customers to find
Email volumes can be high, particularly for large organisations, and especially if they don’t have robust email management in place. So, it can be tempting to make it difficult for consumers to find customer service email addresses to lower demand. However, this causes annoyance and can deflect consumers onto more expensive channels such as the telephone. It is much better to display email addresses clearly and use email as an escalation from self-service.
2. Use Web forms
To help your team deal with email interactions as efficiently and effectively as possible, provide a form on your website that ensures customers provide all the necessary data to handle the enquiry. Form fields include Name, Email address, Phone number (in case a phone follow-up is advised), Contact preference, and any Customer ID needed. Many busy contact centres offer a selection list of topics, which then become the subject line of the inbound email sent to the contact centre. In some cases these are even routed to different queues, allowing agents with specific skill sets or knowledge to handle appropriate enquiries. Or they can be given different priorities.
3. Keep Customers informed
Customers don’t expect companies to respond to emails immediately. However, let them know that you have received it. Providing an immediate, automated acknowledgement also allows you to set realistic expectations about when they will get a full response. Some contact centre solutions will allow you to follow this up with progress responses, configured in the system to auto-activate when responses are delayed. In these responses you can also include links to relevant online topics or FAQs that may answer their query in the meantime. Keeping customers in the loop makes them less likely to send follow up emails or chase their enquiry through other channels, artificially and unnecessarily inflating your volumes, and adding to your team’s workload.
4. Automate and Empower Agents with Templates
Provide agents with relevant ‘best answer’ templates that they can personalise and respond with, especially for common queries. Back this up with a comprehensive knowledge base that allows agents to ask questions in plain English. Drive continuous improvement by making it easy for agents to give internal feedback on templated answers. You can then use this to amend or fine-tune responses to improve the experience.
Make sure you don’t limit your answers just to text. Instead, use email to share links to relevant images and ‘how to’ videos that can help consumers. However, ensure you deliver helpful responses. Rather than emailing a link to a 90-page product manual, your link should highlight the specific page or paragraph that answers the customer’s query.
5. Analyse for Improved Management and Insights
As a text-based channel email is easy to analyse in real time as soon as it enters the contact centre. As well as routing emails to the agent with the best knowledge, skills, or language to respond effectively, you can also use analytics to identify customers that are at higher risk of leaving or to prioritise queries from high-value or VIP customers and route accordingly. Analysis can also provide early warning of potential issues, such as if you see a growing number of emails mentioning specific topics.
Analysis of your email data also provides deep and critically valuable insight into your customers needs – and how successfully you are meeting these. As well as tracking metrics such as response time, you can analyse email responses to ensure consistency and identify areas for agent training. Similarly, you can perform AI analysis across all interactions to spot trends, track sentiment and better understand customer needs. Email is also the easiest channel for distributing post-interaction feedback surveys as part of your Voice of the Customer programme.
While the first email was sent way back in 1971, it remains a popular choice today, especially for customer service. In fact, the rise of smartphones and a desire for digital communication has made it even simpler to use and more prevalent than ever. However, with expectations continuing to rise, companies need to implement the right technology to support robust email customer service. AI should back this implementation to empower agents and drive ongoing improvements.WATCH NOW
- We recommend this report: ContactBabel 2023 Australia and New Zealand Contact Centre Decision Makers’ Guide
- Videos, web page: Enghouse customers speak about their contact centres
- eBook: Navigating 2023’s Top 5 Customer Experience Challenges
Contact us to find out more about enabling your contact centre with Email at helloAPAC@enghouse.com