• 01:38:59 am on March 10, 2009 | 3
    Tags: , , , ,

    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?

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Comments

  • tboehm30 12:37 pm on March 10, 2009 | # | Reply

    Much of what you are saying is part of a CRM package. “Automation – autosuggestions and autoresponses to make an agent’s life easier” is not possible with standard Exchange, AOL, GMail, or HotMail. Also, “queue, rules, workflow management” are or should be part of a CRM discussion.

    Email is great, but a large portion of your suggestions could be integrated into the CRM system, resolving the urgency to upgrade a legacy email system.

  • kate leggett 9:25 pm on March 10, 2009 | # | Reply

    You are right. Email should never be considered separate to your entire multichannel service (or CRM) strategy. It is just one of the many channels that customers should be able to contact you on, and agents should have a universal contact history across channels in order to service their customers better. Like you say, rules, queues etc should be part of a CRM strategy discussion, not only email.

    Unfortunately, many companies dont think holistically of their CRM strategy. This even plays out in the way companies are organized – You call your phone agents, and you got your eservice/email agents. And very few companies have all this stuff integrated.

    So, if you are (unfortunately) just thinking about email (and not your entire CRM system), and how to get the most out of this channel, many ERMS vendors now have mature offerings that include automation features like advanced text classification engines to help with autosuggestion/autoresponse rates. So, updating to the latest technology does give you quantifiable ROIs.

  • Anne Wood 8:42 am on April 2, 2009 | # | Reply

    Hi Kate. Email is a much maligned tool these days, often seen as a seperate, expensive channel, often neglected and under utilised. In my own company, The Carphone Warehouse, our brilliant KANA Response email system was being managed like a glorified Outlook system and was getting a very bad press internally!

    Whilst it wasn’t part of my brief, I persauded the Contact Centre director to allow me to take over the administration and management of the system itself, whilst also reorganising the contact centre (CC) teams away from closed departments only handling ‘certain’ types of enquiries (in excess of 335 queues!!) across to a ‘skills based’ matrix of NINE queues where 1 was simple/quick and 9 was hard/complex/time consuming.

    I also looked deeply at the system functionality and made fixes such as changing the spell check to English English instead of American English (the CCs had come up with some workaround!), setting the SLAs to match our opening hours, introduced categories/standard paragraphs, auto suggest/response, branded our auto acknowledgements, changed the fonts to match company style, copy wrote the standard paragraphs and, finally, arranged training for all of the advisors in modern writing styles (it’s amazing how effective this simple thing is).

    The result is massive improvement in productivity, SLAs, morale, and we can also have telephony advisors answering the level 1-3 queues in between calls by using auto suggest/review queues.

    Sounds like a lot of work? No, just basic good housekeeping and truly understanding the power and funcationality of a major asset and using it fully.

    Next steps are to integrate to the knowledgebase, internally and externally.

    Oh- and using the brilliant managed service skills of eVergance! Well worth the investment


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