5 Ways to Provide Great Customer Service Through Email

This post is written by Salil Gupta, Managing Partner at Vcare Technology, a provider of contact center services to online retailers.

When crafting the ideal experience for your customers, be sure to review your communication channels to ensure your efforts are focused on those preferred by your customers.

Dimension Data recently found that 44% of Generation X and 42% of Generation Y prefer to communicate via electronic messaging (Email, SMS, Chat)- nearly double that of the Baby Boomer generation (23%).

Great customer service can be delivered through email, and with the following tips, your customers will soon realize they can rely on your email-based support team for speedy and efficient resolutions.

Answer emails in 8 hours or less.

Twenty-four hour response times are no longer acceptable to customers. Many expect responses in eight hours or less, and some of the top retailers are responding initially in minutes, not hours. Generation X and Y customers simply don't like to wait long for a response, and won't hesitate to call or turn to social media for a response if they don't hear back in a timely manner. This in turn leads to increase costs to field the additional contacts that need to be made by your customer in order to reach a resolution.

Keep the canned responses to minimum

Canned email responses apply to a few scenarios, but in a majority of cases will require a personalized response that's crafted for that specific situation. Your customers are reaching out to you, giving you the opportunity to not only fix their issue but deliver a great experience that they'll remember. Whether it's an issue reading the policies on your website or a question about a delivery status, a canned response sends the message that you're not investing in personalized support, and should be avoided whenever possible.

Deliver a personalized experience.

Customer service delivered through email doesn't have to be dry, boring or lack personality. In addition to customizing basics like salutations and order specifics, the overall tone of the email should be personalized to your customer. Provide customer service agents with quick access to order histories and preferences, and encourage tailoring email content to reflect the fact that a human is on the other end. Remember customers are looking for a similar experience on email as they would get over the phone.

Focus on first resolution rates.

Customers generally tend to ask multiple questions in an email. Contact center representatives tend to reply to one issue, but often fail to address all questions with complete information. This is, unfortunately, leading to a global decline in first contact resolution rates, which have dropped 10% since 2009 to 73.1% on average per the aforementioned Dimension Data report, 2013/2014 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking. Efforts should be made by call centers to provide complete replies to customers as it's a better experience for your customers and will help to reduce the costs of service.

Allow customers to correspond with the same representative.

Email as a communication channel can lend itself to back-and-forth dialogue. Set a standard by facilitating ways for your customer to correspond with the same representative whenever possible. Repeat email tickets should be assigned to the same representative who handled the first response.

When implemented well, these guidelines are a good start to delivering great customer service experience to customers through email.

Salil Gupta is Managing Partner at Vcare Technology. Vcare provides contact center services to retail companies. Gupta is an entrepreneur at heart and got his MBA from Babson College in Entrepreneurship and Finance, and is also a licensed CPA.