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Study reveals severe email shortcomings in multichannel customer service

4th Jul 2011
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Despite a widespread push towards email communications in order to keep costs down, only 28% of contact centres respond to customer messages within their own promised timescales, while 27% fail to reply at all.

These are the findings of a survey among 100 large UK companies undertaken by email management and web self-service software provider, Eptica.

The study revealed that 47% of respondents did not even bother with an initial acknowledgement indicating that they had received a customer’s email. It then took them an average of 20 hours and 41 minutes to come back to them with a proper response, although a worrying 48% of companies answered the query incorrectly anyway.

In its report entitled ‘2011 Eptica UK Multichannel Customer Service Study’, the firm said: "Contact centres that effectively provide relevant and timely information can develop long-term relationships with customers. If a customer needs to request further information after the first response, however, all communication is virtually pointless. The ROI of communications lies in the customer receiving relevant answers to their queries."

As a result, it recommended undertaking action in three areas in order to measure and improve the quality of email communications.

Firstly, organisations should introduce online self-service tools such as natural language search, guided navigation, dynamic content linking and community forums onto their websites, with the aim of reducing the number of emails sent in the first place. If such an approach did not work, they should find out why and fix the problem.

Secondly, contact centres needed to understand their industry’s ‘magic number’ in terms of response times. For example, in some sectors it would be six or even 12 hours before a lack of response resulted in customer satisfaction levels plummeting from 90% to 70%. As a result, “understanding and managing to this number is vital for the success of email servicing”, the report said.

Finally, it was crucial to ensure that email queries were resolved on first contact or customers would simply pick up the phone. Providing accurate answers was also vital, but could require an understanding of consumers’ online history if their enquiries were unclear.

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