Email? Again? What’s the Deal?

Like chat, its time again to revive a tool that has gotten a bad rap over the years. I’m talking about email. Email 2.0, not email 1.0.

Back in the Web 1.0 days, email was all the rage. It was new. It was fast. It was cheaper than a phone call. And many companies home-built an email system, or bought one from the handful of original ERMS vendors.

Customers loved email. They sent in thousands of emails. Jupiter Research (now Forrester) reported year-over -year volumes doubled from 1999 to 2004. But these  volumes overwhelmed companies who couldn’t keep up with the demand.  Email users started to get mad at what was going on. They didn’t get answers to the emails that were being sent in. Or they had to wait a week to get an answer. (Jupiter says that number of companies that took over 3 days to respond or never do so at all (!!!) increased to 36%  in 2004)

And when customers finally got something back, they found out that they had only gotten half their question answered, and the English used was not particularly correct.

What was happening with most early adopters of email, is that they had been romanced by new technology, but had not paid attention to the people and processes that were needed to keep this communication channel humming.

There was no thought to content management – How canned answers would be periodically reviewed to ensure that they were still accurate? How would new content get added and obsolete content removed? What reports would be run to see what content was the most used?

There was no thought to queue, rules, workflow management. Very few times did companies tweak the initial setups to make them more in-line with the businesses real need.

They had not thought of automation – autosuggestions and autoresponses to make an agent’s life easier.

And, there was no thought to a vision of multichannel service. For example, few companies had thought through what channels customers needed, and what channels they could effectively provide. As well, few thought through the interplay of channels. For example, if a particular question was coming in frequently over email, did a business have a process to make sure that there was a customer-facing FAQ, or knowledgebase content for this question?

And, the nail in the coffin was that many of the system administrators who had originally purchased email systems left. Do a survey at your company.- How many of you are still using an email system that is over 5 years old?

Email is now seeing a second coming. Why? Because there are real quantifiable gains that can be realized using this channel. And many companies have implemented it successfully. However, to do it right, and to have your customers learn to trust this channel, you must properly care for it. You need to know what email best practices are, and you need to implement them.

How many of you know what these are? Or are actually using them?