Put Down that Phone
By now, a good number of consumers are well familiar with e-mail as a sales and marketing vehicle. Many overlook e-mail’s function as a customer-service channel, however, and that’s a good thing for multichannel marketers. Shockingly low customer-satisfaction ratings plague e-mail customer service. The same complaints are often repeated: delayed or no reply, and poorly composed replies with inadequate or incorrect information.
To ease the burden of call-center customer-service reps by making e-mail a viable and effective customer-service outlet, eGain, a provider of customer-service and contact-center software, recently published a whitepaper, Mission-Critical Email Customer Service: 10 Best Practices for Success, to help companies make this a reality. Below are five takeaway tips from the whitepaper.
1. Acknowledge receipt of the customer’s e-mail.
Consumers’ top complaint with e-mail customer service is that it takes companies too long to respond — if they respond at all. People are much more willing to accept a delay in response as long as they know their service requests are at least being processed. To that, the whitepaper authors suggest that you set up your e-mail system to send automatic acknowledgments for all inquiries received. These acknowledgments should include an expected response time based on customer expectations and customer-specific service-level agreements.
2. Get the inquiry into the hands of the right agent.
To minimize response time, get the inquiry to the agent best suited to handle it. Steps to make this possible include the following:
* Create Web forms for customers to use when submitting inquiries. These help gather the information the agent needs to solve the problem, and also help to classify inquiries and route them to the corresponding agent most likely to solve that problem.
* Incorporate automated workflows to route e-mails based on the skill and workload of available agents, the nature of the inquiry, and the lifetime value of the customer. Allow agents to easily collaborate with subject-matter experts.
3. Create a knowledge base.
Analyze customer queries to identify the most frequently asked questions (FAQs). Create responses to these FAQs, freeing up your agents to focus on more complex and high-value inquiries. Create form articles for the body, header, greeting, signature and footer of the e-mail. Agents then simply have to mix and match available information without creating new content.
If agents are forced to create new content, they should save it to be reused. These form responses should include rich content using HTML and graphics to make the information easy to read.
Format your knowledge base so content is automatically personalized in each e-mail, especially when agents reply to multiple customers with a single response. Incorporate auto-suggest responses from the knowledge base to speed up problem resolution.
4. Preemptive strikes.
Set a goal to limit the number of customer service inquiries to as few as possible. Regularly communicate product and service news to your customers using group e-mails, your Web site, catalogs, retail locations, etc. Publish parts of your knowledge base on your Web site, providing customers a forum to track down the answers to their questions before contacting you. You’ll notice a significant decrease in agent workload and increase in customer satisfaction. Self-service is always the best option.
5. Use customer-service e-mails as a learning (and selling) tool.
Using your system’s reporting and analytics capabilities, track and categorize all issues raised by your customers to gain insight on how to serve them better. Provide this information to company decision-makers, who can then adjust service capabilities or product offerings accordingly. Don’t miss any chance you get to have one-on-one communication with your customers. Integrate marketing and upsell messages into service responses based on the category of the query and the type of customer. Include a hyperlink to a related promotional offer in the footer of the e-mail.
You can download the whitepaper in its entirety here.