Uh-oh! Customer service via email is slacking

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Customers often don’t get the answers they’d like from contact centers – and one form of communication is missing the mark half the time. 

On average, retailers answer customer emails completely just 54% of the time, a new study by STELLAService found.

That leaves customers either disappointed and either turning to the phones to get the answers they need or turning away from the company altogether.

Recently STELLAService analysts sent an email a day to 25 premier retailers with simple questions like “I live in an apartment and I always miss my delivery guys when they come. How many times will they attempt? And, “How long do I have to go pick it up at the shipping facility before they send it back?The analysts were looking for complete responses.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between a complete response and an incomplete response, here’s a simple example: You want to know if a retailer has the shoes you see online available in the color red and size six. Your email asks both questions clearly, but the retailer only replies “Yes, they’re available in red,” leaving you wondering whether you’ll fit in the shoes at all. A complete response would also give you the information about sizing that you had asked for.

Fortunately, there are retailers that take the time to address all inquiries in full.

Of the companies included in the study, the bottom performers in answering the message completely sent automatically generated responses that provided a link to their home page. They then suggested looking for the answer in the help index. In all, they provided complete responses less than 20 percent of the time.

“It’s extraordinarily rare that an automated response will solve a customer’s question,” STELLAService Chief Executive Jordy Leiser said. “While it’s a potential cost-saver for retailers, a less than adequate reply puts at risk the lifetime value of a customer.”

Here at Deerfield Communications, developers of VisNetic MailFlow, we could not agree more. Even though it is an oft requested feature (intelligent auto replies) we have steered clear for precisely the same reason - a response based upon what the software "thinks" you're asking versus what a live human believes you are asking, if often night and day.  Instead, we offer customer service agents a customizable Standard Response Library, allowing the agent to choose from a host of appropriate, company prepared replies.  

Customers love the ease and practicality of email, but it is clear from our research that retailers are not being diligent about quality replies,” Leiser said. “In order to meet the needs and expectations of their customers, it’s time for retailers to deliver the same level of quality and speed when communicating with customers via email as they do on the phone.

A few keys to boosting response to email (and potentially curbing some phone demand) from STELLAService:

 » Use templates - If the answers are right, customers won’t mind if they’re not all that personal.

VisNetic MailFlow utilizes templates, known as Standard Responses, allowing Agents to maintain a consistent message across the entire company. Helping Agents to reply quickly with accurately while providing message personalization. 
 » Send an auto-response to all incoming messages, letting customers know when you’ll respond so the wait won’t seem so long.

VisNetic MailFlow can send the appropriate auto reply based upon defined criteria.

 » Link them - If the issue is complicated, and needs more attention, give customers a brief response with a link to get them started and let them know how you are proceeding to get the full answer.

VisNetic MaiFlow provides functionality above and beyond this core requirement.  Reply, leaving the message open, add private notes to alert co-workers you are gathering additional information for the customer, etc. Replicate the message asking the Shipping Department to address the customer's shipping question, while replying to the size and availability question. All the while providing improved email customer service by immediately acknowledging receipt of their email, followed by a personal response answering their questions, and rather than delaying the reply, indication the Shipping Dept will be contacing them directly, etc. 

VisNetic MailFlow will revolutionize the way your organization uses email to provide service and support to your customers. 

MailFlow is Easy to Try & Easy to Buy.  Learn more, Contact us today.