How quickly do you answer e-mails that arrive in your inbox? How does it compare to your competitors? Is it quick enough? Research we recently conducted revealed that only 19% of contact centres will answer e-mail within an hour, a startling 60% take more than a day to respond and 8% take more than five days.
This is a symptom of the declining importance of e-mail in the contact centre. Where once it was seen as the future, it has now been superseded by social media and webchat and is seen very much as the past.
This is a mistake. According to ContactBabel 2012 research, e-mail still accounts for 15.4% of inbound transactions, and a full 34% of consumers cite it as their preferred channel – second only to the telephone.
Contact centres should not be abandoning email. They should be looking at ways to do it more effectively. Above all else they should be finding ways to respond more rapidly to e-mail queries. Two hours should be the absolute maximum amount of time it takes. Here are three ways you can get closer to that.
1) Use auto-responses to manage to expectations. Something along these lines: “Thank you for your e-mail. One of our team will come back to you within two hours.” This reassures the customer firstly that you have received their e-mail, and secondly that you will come back to them.
2) Offer self-service in your auto-responses. Use text recognition to identify key phrases such as “balance enquiry” or “meter reading”, and so direct the customer to the website.
3) Integrate e-mail into your agent workflow. Don’t have e-mail as a separate team or as an activity that agents do in quiet periods. Put it into the workflow so that your agents are responding to customers at the most appropriate moment, regardless of the channel involved. If, during a call or webchat, your system screen pops unanswered e-mails from that customer it can allow your agent to clear them off the system, reduce the E-mail workload and hence response time
Taking just those three steps should help you get closer to responding to customers within two hours. It should also have the positive side-effect of reducing the number of calls and e-mails into your contact centre simply because many calls and e-mails are chasing up unanswered e-mails.