Before the advent of social media, email was the prime method of written online communication. Yet, in our modern age, social media platforms seem to dominate as channels for quicker and savvier communication, playing an increasingly important role in the customer service sphere. However, just as email continues to serve people in their daily professional and personal communications, its significance in customer service should not be underestimated. An Econsultancy report found that 60% of consumers still prefer customer service via email, while an American Express study found that 38% of customers still turn to online customer support or email for simple issues. How can companies be sure to engage efficiently with customers on this all-important channel and deliver exceptional email customer service?
Brand consistency is important, but give a personal touch. Using template email responses is ideal for communicating information clearly and consistently across a brand as multiple agents typically send them, but customers should still feel the personal touch. Taking steps such as addressing the customer by name, using a reference number for a service case, and apologizing or thanking the customer are important for service cases, while including any relevant information about recent purchase history is ideal for targeted marketing emails.
Timeliness still counts. Email may not be social media, but timeliness is always a critical factor in great customer service. Forrester Research found that 41% of consumers expect an email within 6 hours, yet only 36% percent of retailers answered that quickly. According to Benchmark Portal, 24 hours or less is widely considered an acceptable time frame for responding to emails (the faster, the better!). So never delay in responding to customer emails, and certainly never ignore one. That’s a critical rule in email customer service.
Keep customers informed. Customers should always be kept in the loop. Automatic response emails are a must when customers reach out to brands to assure them that their email was received. Customers should also be updated on open service cases—for example, when a package has been shipped with its tracking number included or when a service repair employee will be sent to the customer’s home. If service is taking longer than expected, customers should likewise be informed. Once the transaction is complete, a thank-you email with an accompanying feedback survey will show customers you care about their opinions.
Quality counts. In a Benchmark Portal study in which businesses were contacted for product and service information, 83% of small and medium-sized businesses responded with inaccurate or incomplete responses. The takeaway? The quality of an email counts as much as its timeliness. Giving customers clear contact forms is one way to gain more pertinent information from them. Brands should take care to be comprehensive: ask for thorough customer contact information, provide boxes to check for the product or service for which customer service is requested, and include a free-response section for comments or questions. Emails may later be classified by topic, enabling companies to better understand which requests are most frequent and leading to stronger customer service and insight for better FAQ sections on the company website and improved agent training. The more the customer service department is informed, the better the email customer service they can provide.
Go the extra mile. Think of email as a way to organize and summarize all the important information that might otherwise be communicated over a lengthy chat or phone call. In each email response, it’s important to provide customers with any information that might make the service process smoother and allow them to find answers on their own. For example, in addition to providing important information regarding customers’ specific cases, emails may include toll-free phone numbers to call for voice support, information on all social media channels on which the brand is present, and links to frequently asked questions along with a direct link to the brand’s website.
With a timely, consistent, and thorough approach, brands may ensure that email customer service remains a preferred and meaningful channel for great customer engagement. Learn about Vocalcom contact center software solutions optimized for email.