- Check emails as frequently as you check the phones. You answer the phones every time they ring and emails should be treated the same way. Itís not acceptable to check customer emails one or two times daily or hourly. Email response must be a priority.
- Send an initial reply immediately Ė certainly no later than 1 business day.
The easiest and most economical means for an initial reply is to have an automatic reply setup through your complaint tracking system or other software package. Some software packages are sophisticated enough to read the customerís email, pick up on key words and reply based on email content. Other, simpler, packages simply respond with content you input. When I worked in consumer affairs at Thrifty, our auto responder simply said:
Thank you for contacting us. Your email has been forwarded to our Customer Care Department. We will contact you within 5 business days.
- Reply via email.
Customers contacting you by email are suggesting that email is their preferred method of communication. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid calling or sending a response via postal (snail) mail. (Obviously, refunds or token items would still be sent postal mail.)
- Resolve problem within 3 Ė 5 business days.
The sooner the better. Email customers do not have tolerance for a 10-day turnaround. Five days is actually stretching it. Strive for immediacy.
- Activate the spell-check feature. Spelling counts. Always, always proof emails.
- Capture and archive emails in your CRM system. Itís critically important to log all email communications (both to and from the company) in your customer relationship management (CRM) system with dates and times. This helps you when emails are escalated, information is misinterpreted or there is an accusation of no response from the company.
- Post a FAQ section on your companyís Contact Us page. Identify the top 10 reasons customers email your company and post responses to these queries on your website. Doing this can reduce the number of emails coming into your department or can better prepare your staff to respond. For example, At Thrifty Rent-A-Car System hundreds of customers contact Customer Care each month requesting a copy of a past rental agreement. The Customer Care Department created a form on the website specifically for customers requesting a rental agreement. Amazon.com has forecasted dozens of FAQ customers are likely to encounter and listed them on their site.
Myra Golden is an award-winning professional speaker and principal of Myra Golden Seminars, LLC, a customer service training firm serving clients in food and beverage, banking, healthcare, hospitality, and other industries. Her client list includes McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Michelin Tires, Pirelli, and Procter & Gamble, among many others.
For hundreds of ideas for customer service improvement for use in customer service training, visit the customer service training resource portal by going to http://www.totalcustomerservicetraining.com