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It Turns Out, Customers LIKE Email

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As far back as 2013, Forbes was publishing articles like, 5 Ways Email Makes Your Employees Miserable and How To Get Rid Of Email In Your Company. I can think of several technologies that have promised to replace email, like Slack and other messaging applications (e.g., Apple Chat or WhatsApp). And yet, it turns out customers like email. And they like it more than companies think they do.

In its second annual global research study of businesses, NICE inContact set out to compare perceptions of business contact center leaders and consumers in key areas of customer experience. For the business study, they surveyed contact center leaders in US, UK and Australia (~900) and compared their responses to consumers who reported on their own customer service experiences (~2,400 consumers). Consumers were asked their most preferred channels to interact with businesses. In the business survey, respondents were asked to rank the top three ways that the company would prefer to interact with a customer during a service experience. The results are compared in the left side of the graphic below.

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Fifty-three percent of consumers put email in their top 3 preferred channels, yet only 43% of businesses prefer email. It is not surprising that both consumers and businesses rank email high – for inquiries that are not urgent, or may require time for a company to research, it is a universally used mode of communications.

What is surprising is the number of companies that I work with that are only routing voice interactions via their contact center solution. Or voice plus web chat. When asked how they handle email, the typical answer is that those messages are sent to a common inbox and agents work on them when voice calls are slow.

Which leads to the results we see on the right of the graphic, the 28-point Net Promoter Score gap between what businesses estimate and how consumers feel about email support from the companies they do business with. Businesses think their ability to take and respond to email should provide a boost with their customers. Instead, consumers – perhaps waiting days for a response – feel that the level of email support detracts from a company’s brand. Consumers may use email for less immediate needs, but that doesn’t mean they want to wait days for a response. And that’s what often happens when those emails are worked on only when everything else is slow.

The right answer is for all customer interactions, including email and newer digital channels growing in popularity among Millennials and GenZ, such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, to be routed by the contact center routing engine, not just the voice and/or web chat. That doesn’t mean that emails must be treated with the same speed as voice, social messaging apps, or web chat. An advanced cloud contact center solution, like CXone, allows a company to specify the rules for handling channels differently. The service level for voice can be set, for example, at 10 seconds while email can have a 10 minute or one-hour rule. Routing email via the contact center solution ensures that no interaction “falls through the crack,” and a customer is left waiting for days for an answer.

The future of email interaction management is even brighter when we add artificial intelligence. Once it is managed as part of the overall contact center solution, the same technology that is being perfected to automatically respond to simple queries in web chat – intelligent virtual assistants – will be able to handle simple responses as well.  The key is deployment of technology that will be able to read and understand personalized requests and respond in a like manner. The moral of the story is don’t let your contact center become an email hater. Embrace email and enjoy a win-win – an easy way to even out traffic volume while providing a service customers like.


Learn more about customers’ expectations, download the CX Transformation Benchmark.