Using Email for Customer Service? Here’s How to do it Well

I must confess, I created most of the content for this post for a presentation I did at the last SSPA conference in Vegas.

It was a very interesting conference to be honest.  I was afraid no one was going to be at my presentation, but I ended up with standing-room only, and lots of questions.  My fear came from the fact that John Ragsdale, the VP of Research and SSPA and a great analyst, keynoted with a presentation talking about the end of email for customer service.  My presentation was called “The Second Coming of Email in Customer Service”.  Yeah, just like that.  He did a great job on his.

So, what is there to say about the second coming of email in customer service? lots and lots.  Please remember that I was with Gartner for seven years, sometimes it is hard to let old habits die.  So, I am going to talk in the same way I did at the conference – the Gartner Hype Cycle.  In case you are not familiar with it, the short version is that all technologies have lots of hype and few implementations initially.  The hype grows faster than the knowledge of what to do with it.  Eventually, the hype brings more adopters – yet we still don’t know much about what to do with it.  With time, and now that we have lots of people using it, we learn how to take better advantage of it and eventually get to use the technology productively, and that causes the second wave of adoption: knowing how to use it.

So, my contention is that email for customer service (or ERMS – email response management systems) is now climbing the slope and becoming more productive.  We are learning how to use it better, and how to make it work for us while generating revenue or saving us money.  This is the good part, because now we can not only tell new adopters how to use it better – we can go back to existing users and show them how to optimize it.  That is my passion, taking something that is not performing as well as it should, use best practices and lessons learned, and make it work better.  And, that is where we are today with the use of email for customer service.

We are, finally some would say, learning how to make it work as expected, how to save money using it for customer service, and how to do it well.  That is what my presentation dealt with – using best practices to improve the use of email in customer service.

I don’t have lots of time to explain in detail how this works, so I am going to summarize here the six best practices I highlighted in the presentation and prompt you to watch it onlne to see the rest.

1) Choose the best transactions to use with email

2) Automate the low-level interactions

3) Create and Maintain SLAs that are appropriate for the channel and interaction

4) Change your tracking metrics to effectiveness, not efficiency

5) Implement and use feedback on the value to customers

6) Hire, Train, and Maintain the proper skills for email interactions

I welcome comments, questions, and concerns. Please reply in the comments below, or email me directly (ekolsky [at] evergance (dot) com).  BTW, SSPA, KANA, and eVergance are planning a really cool webcast together to discuss the topic of Email in Customer Service.  We don’t have the final details yet, but is going to be on December 4th.  Send me an email, or leave me a comment, and we will add your name to he distribution list for it.

Thoughts? Comments? Complaints? Please let me know…

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