Dealing with the Customer Service Emails

Getting emails from your customers is a very good thing. It shows that they are engaged with your company. But, when you get an overload of emails and if most of them happen to be negative, then it gets irritating. And believe me, that irritation will show up in discussions with your customer.

Support emails play a vital role in helping you improve your product, grow your business and build better relationships with your customers. But if your support team is getting too many incoming emails, then response times can suffer, and your business can end up paying dearly for delivering less-than-excellent customer service.

However, there are some proven methods that you can use to reduce the number of support emails that your team gets. Most importantly, how do you deal with emails in time without it affecting the response time.

Here are some tips to get fewer emails to your support email ID and on dealing with incoming emails effectively and quickly.

1) Converting emails to tickets and have them categorized automatically
When the support mailbox is filled with emails and junk emails it becomes difficult to handle them efficiently. With Impel, you can easily categorize and prioritize tickets and assign them to the right people in your team with specific rules and workflows.And you don’t have to worry about multiple agents responding to the same ticket anymore because everyone in the team can see who is assigned which ticket and who is working on which ticket along with its status. It is so easy to setup and use that you’ll be able to start resolving tickets in minutes. You have the flexibility to assign specific domains or email IDs as Junk, such that those emails never get assigned to an agent, wasting their time unnecessarily. This not only saves the support person’s time but reduces the number of unnecessary emails in your support box.

2) Make a note of Issue-types that fill your Inbox
In general, companies will have a certain types of issues that keep repeating. Do you know what those Issue Types are for your company? The fact is that if you’re not tracking, you’re guessing and not aware of the exact numbers. Having a system to track support issues doesn’t take very long; we use tagging feature of Impel’s Omni channel solution to categorize tickets by issue type. This lets you see exactly what Issue Types are taking up your Support agents’ time. Sort out those specific issues and see the number of emails to your support IDs drop dramatically. Or set up answers to those issues as FAQs in Impel and let your customers help themselves, without having to raise an email ticket. When you know what to focus on that would reduce the number support tickets, you can eliminate a lot of trouble tickets.

3) Build an easy to use FAQ
A self-serve FAQ that contains answers to frequently asked customer queries is one of the most effective ways to quickly cut down on the support tickets. During one survey by Coleman Parkes of nearly 3,000 online consumers, an overwhelming 91% said they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. Whereas 75 percent of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online support if it were reliable, but only 37 percent currently even try to use self-service options, which are often perceived as inaccurate or incomplete.

It’s not enough for your FAQs or knowledge base to be there. It has to be really good and usable.

To make sure that you have a very detailed FAQ that is created keeping in mind the customers and is one that the customer actually want to use, make sure that you regularly:

a)Update it with new features, and remove outdated information
b)Update it with new questions that you’re asked by the customers if already not listed
c)Collect feedback from customers on regular basis
d)Try to add some links that explain or add some screenshots

4) Improve Your Onboarding
To your business, two of the most important milestones in the life of a customer are:

a)The moment they sign up for your product, and…
b)The moment they achieve their first “success” with your product

The purpose of onboarding is to take your customer from (1) to (2) as quickly and smoothly as possible.

On demand customer service – available on your website or in your app, wherever your customer is running into an issue – stops support emails right at the source. This can be offered with a help widget and with live chat and in- app chat. A help widget is like a miniature knowledge base that follows your customer around as they use your product or website.

Live chat has become important for online customers: in one Forrester survey, 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a site can offer.

5) Improve First Call Resolution (FCR)
Another huge source of inbox clutter for many support teams is unnecessary back-and-forth with customers. Trying to solve customer’s problem with a single response – becomes an even more important goal. By lowering the average number of replies that get sent per ticket, you can dramatically reduce the load on your support mailbox.One of the best ways to improve FCR is by improving the thoroughness and clarity of your customer support queries and handling it with ease by keeping upto date with the product and its features. Train your agents to search your FAQs and Knowledge base for answers, so that they respond to customer queries accurately and fast.

6) Provide Live Chat
A well thought live chat helps to equip your visitor with realtime interaction services for instant communication and for enhanced customer relations. The addition of live chat on websites is a boon for online businesses. Not only it allows them to interact with their customers on real-time basis but also facilitates them to create an impression on visitor’s mind and ensure recurring visits instead of sending emails and waiting for a reply.

7) Keep your Customers updated
SaaS companies constantly make changes to the product and so does Impel. We keep bringing in enhancements to the product based on the feedback and reviews from our customers. Many of these updates impact all of your customers, but too often, companies let customers discover product changes for themselves; a mistake that leads to confused users and, yes, more support emails to add on to the existing clutter.

As part of your product update checklist, make sure that if your customers will be affected by a change you’re making, that you let them know about it in much advance so they don’t get baffled with the changes. Regularly update your product blog so that your customers know where to find up to date information about your product.

I know there are many more points that can be discussed here. I have just shared a few important ones. Let me know what you think is important.

Data silos are even worse for Customer Support than for Sales

I’ve always been fascinated by the American focus on Sales, sometimes at the cost of Customer Service (as this terrible example demonstrates). Salespeople make the most money, salespeople wear upmarket suits, they drive fancy cars and they’re pretty much the only people that’re qualified to be called “rainmakers” in any organization. In other economies, though – notably India today, for example – consumer-focused companies don’t seem to worry as much about Sales as about Support. Sales, to most of them, is an operational process: the market exists, so getting paying customers is mostly a matter of throwing more money (equity!) at it. Customer Support, on the other hand, is critical: after all, there are a number of well-funded companies chasing the same consumers for the same services. Reading this article by Ashley Smith in the customer-service context, the problem is MUCH bigger for companies that have a fast-growing marketplace. Data from sales, returns, past support calls, past emails, even past chat requests – all of that goes to making sure the consumer remains your customer no matter what competitors throw at him or her. Consider just three examples.

  • Our customers insist that, when a call comes in, the agent must know the name of the caller before s/he picks up the phone. Referring to the caller by his/her name in the initial greeting causes a very strong emotional connection and that’s terrific. The challenge, though, is that some of the consumer records in Impel may have come from an inbound email-to-ticket. Or from an online order that has a different phone number or only the email ID. In these cases, we don’t know the consumer’s phone number: how do we pop up a window that shows his/her name?
  • Once an agent “connects” with the consumer, either because s/he called in or requested a chat or even just sent an email to the company, the agent needs to be aware of a set of key metrics about the consumer in order to be effective. Maybe the date of the last order placed, maybe the total value of orders in the past year, possibly even an inferred “loyalty level” based on recent purchases. these help the agent frame the conversation in a personalized manner. But they’re all summaries of information from external systems – order management, loyalty management, etc. How can the agent see all this, in summarized and simple form, in the few initial seconds of the call?
  • Consumers call or connect with a company because they have very specific challenges to deal with. The groceries they ordered yesterday were squashed, the food delivered was cold, whatever. The agent now needs to get to that specific transaction and read off details that give the consumer the confidence that the data is available, so help is at hand. But those details are typically locked away in secure, siloed transactional systems that are designed to take on new orders, not to cough up details of existing ones. How can the agent find the details quickly enough to keep consumer-hold-time at a minimum? This is an issue not just in calls and chats but in responding to emails, too: the more hoops the agent has to jump through, the less s/he is inclined to do so – agents are human, too!

To make all this work well, the silver bullet pitched most is this thing called “integration” – something Ashley talks about, too, in her article. IMHO, integration will itself not cut it: being able to “integrate” systems only means that they can trade data with each other. What’s most important here is that all the integrated data be available at the point of most needed: to the agent. And it be available in a simple, accessible model that does not involve multiple tabs / screens / logins. The good thing is, if you can make that data available to your agent, then you can build reporting that makes details and summaries available to his/her manager, to business analysts, even rolled up to everyone including your CEO. So while integration among systems is important, an integrated system usually works better.

[Time to toot our horn] Consider the image below – an actual screen-shot that an agent sees, for one of our customers. On this one screen is quite a bit of info. And it all gets there because of integration (from the customer’s transactions), configuration (of Impel screens and back-end) and some last-mile design thinking. With all this data available, everyone from the agent to the CEO an see what s/he wants, detailed/summarized as needed. That leads to everything from better customer interactions to better top line and better bottom line. That’s what breaking down silos does!

Configured Call Pop-up

Agree? Disagree? Tell us!

4 out of 5 for eCommerce

I just read Jodi Beuder’s very interesting commentary on their research into customer service issues for 2015 entitled “Five customer service imperatives for Internet retailers“. As I read this article, it brought to mind several ways in which Impel customers could leverage our features to address these service imperatives. Based on the study, the the key issues that e-retailers needed to take care of in 2015 were: Go Mobile, Responsiveness is key, Unite your channels, Self-service is in demand and Be Transparent. As I read through the article, I could immediately see how Impel could help address 4 of the 5 imperatives.

Go mobile: Today, mobile apps are a huge part of e-retailer offerings. In a recent interview, Ola Cabs revealed that over 68% of their business came from their mobile app. But when

In-app support - Impel
In-app support with Chat, tickets, self-service

an app customer requires customer service, do you force them to go online to your website or to your call center? Mobile app customers prefer staying within your app and getting support right there. With Impel, your app customers help themselves with FAQs, raise tickets or chat with your service agents, all from within your app. Don’t force your app customers to leave your app. Earn 5-star ratings with Impel’s in-app customer service, embedded into YOUR app.

Responsiveness is key: Customers want support NOW. They are not willing to wait for days to get a response. When they have a question, they want it answered immediately. A 2013 Survey by Steve Van Bellegham, found that customers expected answers to their queries in 4 hours. With Impel, you can provide responses via  an integrated call center, Web Chat, in-app help desk support, automated email-to-case support – multiple ways in which customers can reach out to you and expect to get a quick response.  At Impel, we say: “Live everywhere that your customer does“. We give you easy, fast ways to respond to customer queries.

Unite your channels: Today, a lot of retailers do provide  support in a variety of channels. In fact, they may provide support in all the channels that we do with Impel. But the critical issue is that these channels are each in an individual silo, with no integration between them. So let’s say a customer raises an issue via chat, then tries to follow up on the same issue via an email and then calls your call center, because they still haven’t had their issue sorted out. Without an omnichannel solution like Impel, your customer is forced to repeat their issue to each of the agents that they talk to and none of the agents have any idea whether someone else is working on it. So not only are you aggravating your customer, multiple resources within your company, may be working on exactly the same issue, which is a total waste of time and effort. With Impel’s Omnichannel service model, all issues and activities with a customer, whichever channel they may have come in from, appear in a single 360-degree view of the customer, reducing customer frustration and empowering agents to deal with customers much more efficiently.

Self service in demand: According to a recent Forrester report, self-service usage

Add an FAQ to multiple categories
Adding FAQs in Impel

increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014. Destination CRM, says that 45% of companies offering web or mobile self-service have reported an increase in site traffic and a decrease in phone calls. These are phenomenal trends for internet retailers. With an easy to use interface to set up Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Impel can help you move most routine queries from the much more expensive call center to a self-help channel, that customers today want to use.

And as for the 5th imperative of Be transparent, we figure that generally our customers are transparent with their processes and methods, just as we are with ours 😉

So make it easy for your customers to reach out to you with Impel. And make it simpler and more cost-effective for your customer service team to deal with customer service issues.

I am truly excited about how Impel can handle the omnichannel service issue for Internet retailers.

Who decides how customer-centric their companies are?

Yesterday, I was struck by a very interesting line in a recent Forrester report titled “Trends 2015: The Future of Customer Service”. In the very first line of the report, Kate Leggett says “In the age of the customer, executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do.”

The explosion of social media, the easy availability of apps for everything and the always-connected consumer have caused a tremendous change in consumer behavior and

Multi channel customer support
Omnichannel customer service with Impel

expectations. These are profound changes that no company can afford to ignore. The good thing is that consumers are now more than willing to help themselves. While this reduces the cost of customer service for companies, the challenge is to provide simple, easy-to-use support systems that consumers can use on their own.

Per the Forrester report, for the first time ever, in 2014, Web self-service edged out phone support as the preferred channel for customer support. In a survey of 4,509 US adults, 76% used Web self-service, while 73% used phone support. The interesting thing here, is that Web self-service has grown steadily from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014. During that same time period, phone support has stayed stagnant at 73%. So while phone support shows no sign of fading out in the near future, other channels of customer service are showing serious growth. This means that it becomes more imperative for companies to offer customer service options such as a customer knowledge base, chat, perhaps even community support forums.

Multi-channel is a term that’s being bandied around a lot these days, but one of the key takeaways from the research is that customers don’t want just multi-channel support; they really want all those channels to be unified – so that each request is recorded and easily answered in ONE, single system. This is beneficial to all the stakeholders in the situation – consumers, agents and companies.

  • Consumers no longer have to repeat themselves when they use a new channel or talk to a new agent
  • Agents know the complete history of a consumer’s interactions in a particular situation and can talk to the consumer intelligently and with more empathy
  • Companies save time, money and effort by reducing consumer handling time and increasing first-contact resolution.

While most companies do offer service in multiple channels, the frustrating consumer experience has been that each channel is in a separate silo. Thus forcing the consumer to repeat their story in every channel that they use. 75% of US online consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.

Most companies have not implemented omnichannel support and most haven’t trained agents in cross-channel service. If all channels feed into the same customer service software, then all companies need to do is to train their agents on that software. This makes immense sense for companies, because agents can then pick up the slack when there is heavier demand on a specific channel. Companies then clearly present to their consumers, that they value their time by obviating the need to repeat or explain their issue multiple times.

With cross-channel trained, empowered agents and the right omnichannel customer support software in place, this is exactly what you can provide to your consumers. Ensure that your agents can view transaction data from your operational systems within your customer service system, and you WILL be the customer service star! And while you are at it, make sure that you can provide exactly the same kind of service to your mobile app customers as well.