We don’t really trust email as a reliable communication channel with a service organization. How many times have you sent in an email to a company, and gotten no answer? Or gotten only a partial answer after waiting for days?

Here are the hard facts: SSPA reports that customers expect an email response in under 2 hours. But email response times fall short of our expectations – only 42% of companies answered their email within 24 hours in 2007. And it’s only gotten worse.

Poorly performing ERMS tools can often be traced back to their implementation history.  In many cases, email systems were deployed years ago, and have had little attention paid to them in recent years to make sure that agents maximized their inherent value.

Even with these statistics and history working against you, there are basic steps to take to ensure that your customers know when their questions will be answered.
• You got to keep your customers in the loop from the time they send an email to you, to the time they get an answer to their questions. How many of you are using system-generated auto-acknowledgement to let them know that you have received their email?
• Manage your email flow– Do you publish your SLAs? Do you meet them? How many of you tune your queues and routing rules to make sure that you are meeting your SLAs?
• Streamline your response process– How many of you are using prebuilt content to help agents answer common questions? How many of you have autosuggestions or autoresponses turned on? How often does your content get tuned?
• Answer your email properly– Forrester says that 6 in 10 customer service emails don’t answer the customer’s question. Teach your agents to answer all questions – direct and implied – to reduce follow-on questions. For example, a customer asking whether shuttle service is available should receive an answer answering this question, as well as the cost and schedule of the shuttle service.
• Make email part of your multichannel strategy – Its not a standalone channel. It must be holistically integrated into your entire multichannel service strategy.

I’ll be blogging more about the do’s and don’t of email. Let me know your feedback, and what is working for you.