As ICS celebrates Customer Service Week, we’re discussing how email can help you provide a great customer service, and experience in today’s customer-led economy.
Let’s start with a story. It was the end of 2013, I had scheduled an appointment with my bank but for some reason, I needed to cancel it. I didn’t have time to go to the branch, so I tried my Internet Banking page, their website, and looked for an email address without any success. I had to call the toll number. 20 minutes and a larger bill later, I cancelled my appointment. But at what cost? Now whenever I think of my bank, I think of slow, unhelpful and cumbersome customer service.
There are so many other channels that can help companies deliver a great customer experience, and email is one of them. Read on to find out why, and get some tips.
Why email can be the right channel for customer service
- It’s accessible to customers – As the name suggests, customer service should be all about the customer. Email is a channel that most people are comfortable with, regardless of the age. It is, after all, our passport to the digital world – from online accounts for various websites to phone IDs. It’s accessible from areas with low cellular network signal, and doesn’t require advance internet speeds.
- It doesn’t require simultaneous communication – Putting my customer hat on, sometimes I don’t have the time to spend waiting on a call for my issue to be resolved. Sending an email allows me to explain my issue quickly now and check for resolution later. On the business side, the advantage is even greater when dealing with global customers across time zones.
- It’s a rich medium for communication – Email is not limited in terms of size, like other channels are. And its cost is not based on that either – a short email will cost just as much as a longer one. It also allows the addition of attachments and links to existing content that can point customers in the right direction. Something you can’t do on a call.
- It can bring the offline experience online – When you go into a store, put some products in a basket or cart and wonder what else can go with them, you can get assistance right away. Similarly, if a customer has purchased something online, you can send them an automated email with similar or match product recommendations.
- It can helpful without being intrusive – If you’re in a store a customer service representative will offer their help without you even asking for it. But online, it’s difficult to spot the confused customer and come to their rescue. When, for example, a customer abandons their basket, you can send them a friendly email asking if they had any problems with the technology and giving additional information about the product. If they’re like me, they might have used the basket feature to save something for later and the additional information will be most welcome.
- It can help you build a long-term relationship – If customers allow you, email can build and strengthen customer relationships in time with relevant content and presence in the inbox. Birthday and anniversary emails take an extra step to show gratitude to customers for choosing your business.
- It can help you meet expectations – when a customer purchases something online, they expect a receipt, want to know when the product will arrive, and who they can contact if they’re not satisfied. All of this can be automated, costing little to your business, but meeting the expectations of today’s customer.
- It captures data for later evaluation – email service providers will provide you with reports for your own evaluation of customer service’s impact on your business performance and bottom line. This will help you spot the areas that need improving and areas that are bringing in more revenue.
- It can be used to measure satisfaction – a simple survey email can give you an understanding of brand sentiment to assess your strengths and weaknesses.
To wrap up, consider these dos and don’ts in email customer service
- Be genuinely helpful – treat every customer as an individual, not just another case you need to solve.
- Be timely – no one expects an immediate reply to an email, but if you promise to reply within 1-2 days, keep your promise. As a rule of thumb, try to over-deliver.
- Listen without making assumptions – be very careful to discover the needs and problems of your customer before presenting a solution. They will appreciate you dedicating your time to them.
- Automate certain emails – if you plan it out correctly, they will be more accurate than manual processing and save you time.
- Suggest the highest-priced solution to a problem, just to enhance your commission.
- Reply from a script – customers will see right through it, making them frustrated and under-valued.
- Direct them to links or documents that only have a remote connection to their problem. Being personal is crucial.
- Use corporate jargon – be clear and simple with any assistance you give because customers won’t know your products or services as well as you do.