Published: November 10, 2014 | Comments
Think email is dead? Think again.
Social, SMS, live chat and advanced self-service are creating quite a buzz in contact centers these days, but now’s not the time to forget email. It’s time to make it better. According to Leslie O’Flahavan of E-WRITE, many customers actually still prefer to use email for customer support. Phone remains number one, but ignoring email as a customer support channel isn’t wise. In fact, Forrester research indicates email is still the third most widely used form of communication among online adults. The desire hasn’t changed, but all these new channels have caused a shift in customer expectations.
How can the contact center adapt? It starts with understanding what customers today expect from social media support:
- An instant response
- Interaction with a real person
- Acknowledgement of influence (ex: look at my Klout score. Don’t you know how important I am?!)
- Help in their channel of choice
- A direct, personalized response
Luckily, email can meet most of these expectations as long as contact centers are willing to keep an open mind and take a can-do approach. At Contact Center Demo and Conference last week, Leslie O’Flahavan shared a few best practices for crafting quality emails in the age of social service.
According to Leslie these are the three keys to a great customer support email:
- Answer faster
- Sound friendly, not stodgy
- Integrate self-service options.
Let’s face it. We live in an age of instant gratification. Customers want help and they want it now. So how can the contact center deliver? Leslie shared seven ways to cut down on email response time:
- Hire more people
- Improve your email software
- Route emails
- Improve your template library
- Beef up your self-service or web content
- Train agents in critical reading
- Trust agents to free-text
Can’t implement all seven of these steps in your contact center? Try focusing on one or two of these and imagine the impact.
Sound Friendly, Not Stodgy
Think about how you communicate with a company via social media, and think about how you communicate with your friends during a face-to-face conversation. More than likely, the tone is friendly and conversational. Why should email be any different?
Leslie put it this way: “Would you say it in person? If not, don’t put it an email.”
Keep it real, and show customers that there’s a human handling their issue--not a robot. Email is not the place for corporate jargon or insincere promises; it’s a place to build trust.
Integrate Self-Service Options
Members of the ICMI community often ask: “how do I encourage my customers to use self-service?” Email offers the perfect opportunity to do this without seeming to push your customer off to another channel.
Gently point customers in the right direction by suggesting they visit xyz.com to do x, y, z. Or include links to your online knowledgebase or self-service portal in the agent email signature.
And speaking of the email signature—make sure it includes the name and location of the agent. Again, customers want to know they’re speaking with a human who can effectively solve their problem.
Tell Us What You Think
What's your biggest struggle when it comes to providing email support? Is your contact center seeing lower or higher volumes of email? Share your experienes in the comments below!