In our previous post, we looked at the hidden costs of digital silos for digital customer service agents; namely that multi-tasking reduces productivity and makes us less resilient. Research shows that digital customer contact centers are losing as much as 40% of worker productivity to the mental drain caused by requiring workers to juggle multiple software platforms to provide customer care. To improve customer and agent experience, companies need to eliminate digital silos.
Today, however, we’re going to look at one of the most overlooked silos of all: email. With the rapid shifts in consumer preferences for customer service channels, email is often talked about as an antiquated channel that is going the way of the dodo. However, most consumers still feel that email is a useful customer service channel, and businesses can’t afford to neglect customer preferences now because of where they think customer service will end up in the future. The truth is that:
Digital messaging is replacing phone, but email isn’t going anywhere.
Some facts to consider:
- According to Forrester, email is still the most commonly used digital customer service channel, with 54% of customers surveyed responding that they have used email for customer service in the last year.
- 38% of customers prefer to talk to customer service online or via email about simple issues. (American Express)
However, customer expectations for email customer service are high – customers expect businesses to respond to their emails within an hour. And email remains poorly integrated with other customer service channels, with 65% of customers responding that they are frustrated by inconsistent customer experience across channels.
With that in mind, the real question becomes:
Does your business have a plan? Or are you still using Outlook for customer email?
Companies that execute a solution for email customer service reap the benefits in terms of brand loyalty and sales. Via BenchmarkPortal: “the handful of companies that respond promptly and accurately to customer emails increase trust in their brand, bolster customer satisfaction, and boost sales both online and offline.” In other words, customers may have high expectations for the speed and quality of service that they receive through email, but they are more than happy to reward excellent customer service with brand loyalty and future business.
Unfortunately, despite the clear rewards for doing so, most companies have continued to overlook the importance of email as a customer service channel, continuing to use outdated and inefficient tools to manage email customer service inquiries. In a study, AIIM found that:
- Only 10% of organizations have completed an organization-wide email management initiative
- Only 20% of companies are currently executing a project
- Even in larger organizations, 17% have no plans to do so
It seems that many companies are opting to continue handling email the way it has always been handled. Often, decision-makers aren’t aware of the hidden costs of continuing to use outdated email platforms, because they aren’t the ones providing front-line interactions with customers. But decision-makers need to update their thinking, because the research is clear: integrated email management solutions are a net benefit to customer experience, as well as improving efficiency of operations by eliminating time wasted by customer service agents who are making do with tools that don’t meet their needs.
So what should companies be looking for when they consider upgrading their email customer service capabilities?
The five most important elements of an email management solution
When looking at email management solutions, there are lots of potential features and benefits that get advertised, and it can be confusing to know what to prioritize – especially as different types and sizes of businesses will have different needs! So for enterprise companies providing customer care through customer contact centers, here are the features you should prioritizing:
- Performance metrics and reporting: Contact centers gather and analyze detailed metrics on phone-based customer service; you should be able to do the same with your email customer service. Prioritize a platform that will give you the ability to gather metrics and reports on the success of your email-based service.
- Make organizing and retrieving past email conversations simple and easy: As the average customer service issue takes multiple interactions to resolve, your email solution needs to make it easy for agents to access previous conversations, so that customers don’t waste time re-explaining the same problems to different agents.
- Save time with email templates and pre-formatted responses for common issues: Many businesses find that there are some commonly-encountered issues that can be addressed with pre-set messages. Save your agents time by setting up pre-written messages that can be sent quickly, rather than making them type the same answers over and over again.
- Tracking and agent assignment to ensure inquiries are addressed: When you have alarge volume of incoming email, it can be easy for messages to get lost in the shuffle without having a system for tracking messages and message assignments to ensure that issues are resolved promptly.
- CRM integration for full customer history: Inconsistent service across channels is one of the biggest customer complaints. In order to provide excellent customer service, your agents need to have built-in CRM integration so that they can easily access customer interaction histories.
Ensuring that your future email management solution includes these five functions will be a good start to addressing your company’s email woes, but there’s one more thing important thing to consider: companies who are serious about improving agent productivity need more than just a mono-channel solution.
Your email solution needs to be omnichannel, not mono-channel
Remember what has already been discussed in terms of the pitfalls of digital silos. Investing in a mono-channel email management platform will deliver some benefits in terms of adding functionality that is missing from basic email programs like Outlook. But bolting a single-channel email solution onto an already fragmented digital agent desktop will only aggravate customer frustrations about inconsistent service across different channels, and will increase your digital agents’ cognitive load, which will increase their stress and lower their ability to provide a quality customer experience.
To provide truly excellent and consistent customer experience, your agents need an omni-channel customer service solution that consolidates email, live chat, social media, SMS, instant messengers, and other emerging channels into one unified interface, with built-in CRM integration to give your agents a full 360-degree view of each customer. This will empower your agents to provide excellent service while improving both agent morale and customer experience.