For customers with less urgent concerns, email support offers a convenient, etched-in-digital-stone solution. This channel remains a popular choice among consumers despite the introduction of instant messaging and social media. In fact, a 2018 HubSpot research showed that 62% of consumers prefer using email to contact customer service.
Granted, the same HubSpot study also reported that today’s customers are the most impatient yet (which isn’t too surprising in the age of instant information). Recent innovations in customer support helped reduce the waiting period between asking questions and receiving answers. Currently, HubSpot reported that customers define “immediate response” as ten minutes or less.
Why Email Is Still An Important Part Of Omnichannel Customer Service
Why is email still included in omnichannel customer service? It turns out that email customer support still holds several advantages over faster, more immediate channels like instant messaging and social media.
Email support offers customers a way to communicate based on their own terms. The client sends an inquiry via email and can check the response at their leisure. This means that they don’t need to be placed on hold. In addition, email is a very convenient application that’s often integrated with many smart devices. When it comes to omnichannel customer support, email channel is also less demanding than Instant Messaging or Chat apps that require attention every few minutes. Not to mention, emails contain a more detailed thread that both parties can reference at any point of their interaction.
Providing Customer Service Vs. Customer Experience
At the same time, companies now fully realize that buyers hold the cards. Today’s customers won’t hesitate to speak out if they receive anything less than stellar service. Forbes reported that a staggering 96% of buyers will abandon a company after experiencing poor customer service.
What does this mean for companies? Apart from the quality of the product they’re selling, businesses must be ready to provide top-tier customer service. This means that they should be on standby to provide answers to common questions about their products, services, and even values. Customer service is essential in providing this information through human agents or an accessible repository of information. It’s not just providing answers, but also doing so promptly.
Customer service is a major component of the total customer experience (CX). The customer experience is the summation of how a buyer feels about their interactions with a business. Customer experience covers the entire buyer’s journey - from the initial research and sales experience to product usage and post-purchase servicing.
Another major distinction between customer service and experience lies in ownership. The customer service team is largely responsible for a company's customer service. However, the complete customer experience is a shared responsibility among all members of the organization.
Can Better Email Support Improve the Customer Experience?
Given the distinction between customer service and customer experience, which one should companies focus on? The answer is both, as the intertwined relationship between the two concepts means they require equal attention. Achieving a great customer experience means ensuring that each individual stage drives satisfaction.
Improving the relationship between the company and its customers means optimizing all communication channels so they can provide exceptional support around the clock. This means revisiting all areas that customers encounter throughout their buying journey. In particular, this entails improving channels such as email support.
Email’s popularity with consumers is something that companies can leverage as they seek to enhance the customer experience. Improving email support is a matter of revisiting current practices and weeding out the inefficient ones. Below are some of the ways companies can provide better email support services to their customers.
Don’t Make Your Customers Wait
While customer service via email suggests a less-demanding pace, that doesn’t mean companies should abandon the concept of speedy service. Clients can choose when to respond to the email as they please, but customer service should make it a point to answer queries promptly.
Unfortunately for many customers, companies seem to take email for granted. CRM software maker Super Office reported that a whopping 62% of companies ignore customer service emails sent to them. Even then, the minority that managed to reply took 12 hours to do so!
According to customer service guru Jeff Toister, the acceptable response time for email is under an hour. 88% of surveyed consumers said that an email reply within an hour would meet expectations. In contrast, customers that send an instant message or post comments on social media expect answers immediately.
Sometimes, A Quick Reply Is All That’s Needed
Some customer inquiries are more complex than others, so it’s understandable that replies can often take time. However, most customers want to know if their email reached the intended recipient straight away. This is why companies must send an acknowledgment receipt upon receipt of an email. This can go a long way in assuring customers their question was received and that a reply is forthcoming. At the very least, it buys the company’s customer service team additional time to craft a personalized reply.
In this case, using an email autoresponder can be invaluable. In addition, the auto-response email can also contain helpful information related to the inquiry. This can include the company’s official working hours and an estimate of when the sender can expect a full reply. This is especially helpful for companies that operate internationally but have limited hours for customer service. It could also include a link to the company’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) web page or a similar knowledge base.
Setting a reasonable wait time is often acceptable to most customers. However, making them wait for a period that exceeds average wait times can lead to lower customer satisfaction scores. Once their patience wears out, getting exceptional service won’t matter. Even more important is ensuring that your customer service team picks up acknowledged inquiries as soon as possible. Otherwise, customers might feel shortchanged and ultimately suspect the company is being run by bots.
Provide Prompt Solutions
Receiving no reply at all is annoying, and so is receiving an entire chain of broken responses. Instead of complete answers, some customer service teams offer piecemeal answers to even the simplest of questions. Your customers are likely already confused or frustrated when they reach out for help, don’t add to it!
The objective of customer service is to solve problems completely and quickly. Deviating from these parameters can be met by hostility from customers who have little time or patience.
The Problem With Customer Delight
For decades, many management experts adopted the idea of “Customer Delight.” This is the concept of providing over-the-top service that makes customers come back for more. Unfortunately, customer experience is a highly subjective matter. For example, a first-time tourist with all the time in the world might enjoy getting the constant, undivided attention of hotel staff. However, a businessman stopping by the same hotel for a breather in between conferences will likely find the same efforts disruptive.
Today’s modern buyers are more concerned with getting what they want in the least amount of time and effort. Any efforts to prolong the buyer’s journey in the name of customer delight can be negatively viewed as excessive attempts to upsell or cross-sell. Instead of a hassle-free customer experience, they got an unnecessarily complex process that offered more than what they bargained for. You can infer what the company’s customer reviews will look like if this becomes standard practice.
Keep Email Support Simple
Instead of prolonging any interactions under the guise of delighting the customer, keep emails simple and informative. Providing straight answers to questions is a start. This is what First Call Resolution (FCR) is all about. Delivering FCR to customers’ problems is a highly-desirable metric that many companies aim for. Instead of sending convoluted responses that offer far too many suggestions, customer service teams should zero in on the concern sent in by the customer. Considering that poor customer service is often the biggest reason for customers to choose another provider, targeting an FCR response is a great way to instill confidence.
Consider Omnichannel Customer Support
Even as most customers would prefer email as their primary method of communicating with customer service, it pays to keep other channels available. This can go both ways. An inquiry that started in chat can progress into a separate issue that no longer requires the same urgency and can now shift to email. Or, customer service can elect to contact a customer via chat to elicit a faster response to resolve an issue quicker. Either way, the availability of other channels outside of email can drastically improve the customer experience.
Companies that offer omnichannel support - email, phone, chat, social media, etc - allow customers to start a conversation in one channel and end in another. The important part of omnichannel support is that information about the customer gets carried across channels. There is no reason for the customer to resubmit data already sent in one channel to continue the conversation in another. This approach resonates well with customers, who appreciate companies that value their time.
While many customers will be okay with beginning and ending their customer service session in one channel, some circumstances will require them to switch to a different channel to resolve their unique issue. Having omnichannel options available helps customers stay on the line and can even lead to a close faster.
It Ensures 24/7 Service
Many companies don’t find it economically feasible to operate a 24/7 customer service desk. An omnichannel system offers the ability for companies to ensure that one or more channels are online to provide help to users.
It Links In-Store and Online Purchases
Omnichannel systems allow customers to easily switch between online shopping and in-store purchases. For example, people might want to buy special items online that go on sale at midnight. Part of the process of completing the purchase includes arranging next-day pickup at the closest branch. Without an omnichannel system, customers will have to choose between completing the entire sales journey online or in-store.
It Saves Time
In some cases, an initial customer inquiry in one channel might need to switch to another. For example, an inquiry that started via chat might need to switch over to a phone agent to get the needed details faster. Conversely, what started as an urgent phone service can dial down to email support.
Other Things to Consider
When responding to email inquiries, it also pays to keep a few things in mind. These pointers can help email support teams come up with better-crafted email correspondences that resonate better with the sender.
Make it Personal
Addressing customers by their names instead of sending generic greetings can help start the conversation on the right footing. Personalization often helps put customers at ease and suggests a level of familiarity.
In some cases, acknowledging the problem initially can aid in finding the solution. Showing empathy to customers not only shows that you are taking their problems seriously, but that the company is also actively invested in solving them. Customer service teams should realize that the customer’s relationship with the company may already be at risk when reaching out. Any further inaction or lack of empathy can sever it.
Focus on the Solution
Above everything else, the bulk of the content written in an email reply should focus on the solution to the customer’s problem, as that’s why they wrote to you in the first place.
Improve Your Business with the Right Support
Email support is just one of the many areas where the right business process outsourcing partner can help your company. Helpware offers the right mix of support systems and qualified professionals to deliver the ultimate customer experience to your clients.
Visit us at our website to learn how we can meet and exceed your unique business objectives today!