Email and Chat Are Key Customer Service Channels


by Martha Brooke | November 30, 2011

80% of CEOs believe their CX is superior. Only 8% of their customers agree. So ask yourself: could you raise the bar on your customer surveys or customer service?
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Too many companies think that providing customer service by email and chat simply means sending responses in a timely manner, although that’s a good start. It’s time for companies to step up and provide real answers to customers’ questions, answers that show its representatives are listening and care what customers have to say.

Email and Chat Advantages

1. According to numerous studies, emails cost much less than phone calls. In some cases, email and chat customer service cost half as much as the phone experience. Savings of this magnitude deserve to be front and center on any company’s radar.

2. With email, it’s customer centric. The customer gets an answer on their time. They don’t have to wait in your call queue and they don’t need to plan around your company’s hours. Instead, customers state complaints or pose questions when it’s convenient for them.

3. Companies can provide information that’s difficult to provide over the phone. This tends to favor email but can work with chat as well. For instance, contextual information such as how to avoid problems in the future and extra resources that the customer can refer to at their leisure are better served through text than conversation.

In the customer service evaluation business, we’ve heard far too many calls suffer when CSRs tell customers to go to a long-link-web-address and the customer simply gives up trying to write the whole thing down. Links in customer service email and chat solve this problem.

But in spite of these advantages, the state of customer service email is bleak.

  • Often, customers don’t really get answers and when they do, those replies can be a robotic string of FAQs
  • Customers have been burned by email and chat. They have learned that the only way to get a meaningful answer is to call a company and when that doesn’t work, to ask for the manager. If that’s a dead end, customers often air their complaints on social media sites or in a huff will threaten legal action.

2 Reasons Companies Fail at Chat and Email

1. Call centers are exactly that: they specialize in calls. While nearly every call center offers email customer service, the fact is email and chat are just add-on services, not their specialty.

2. And then, there is the Peter Drucker quote that we return to again and again because it offers a reasonable explanation for all kinds of execution failures: “you manage what you measure” or, as others have said “you can expect what you inspect”. Often. customer service email is too rigid or too improvised because companies don’t have the right guidelines and procedures in place.

All companies that have nailed customer service email have done so because they track critical factors like customer effort, answer completeness and overall empathy.

If you are a company with great customer service email or chat, tout it! Tell your customers that you are different and that while their calls are welcome, that’s not the only way to get a straight answer. Promise replies within the day written by associates who take the time to read—not just gloss over—questions.

Even better: if you can verify it, state up front that your customers report that 95% of your email and chat responses are smart, easy-to-understand and friendly. By communicating these facts from the start, you’ll get the transition from call to email or chat customer service underway.

2012? Let it be the year of excellent customer service email and chat. Mastery on this front means you’ll have more satisfied customers, better interactions and a more profitable customer experience. Email and chat on!

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