1. Set, Manage, and Track Customer Expectations
• Set up your email system to send automatic acknowledgments for all email and webform inquiries received. The acknowledgment must include the expected response time-track evolving customer expectations and customer-specific service-level agreements to determine the response time.
2. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
• Alarms that are triggered if an inquiry is not handled within a specified period
• Monitors and reports that track inquiries and measure agent performance
3. Automate Service Processes with Intelligent Routing
• Create webforms that customers can use to submit their concerns or questions. Not only are webforms useful for gathering the information that agents need to solve problems, webforms also make it easier to categorize inquiries and route them to the agent best suited to solve the problem.
• Set up automated workflows to route email messages based on the skill and workload of available agents, the nature of the inquiry, and the lifetime value of the customer.
• Make sure that your workflows allow agents to easily collaborate with subject matter experts. Agents should be able to forward email messages, draft responses, and share internal notes. Supervisors should be able to track and monitor the inquiry at each stage.
4. Make Complete Customer Information Available to Agents
• Provide agents easy access to account and billing information and the interaction history of customers.
• Set up quick access to external data sources that agents frequently refer to while responding to inquiries. For example, a retail business that gets many shipping-related queries could provide its agents with a quick link to UPS tracking systems.
• In a multichannel service environment, create an enterprisewide view of the customer. A common customer information data base allows customers to switch channels without starting all over again. And, it saves organizations significant amounts of handling time and effort.
5. Start Small and Grow a Knowledge Base
• Create a knowledge base that is easy to use and make it available. You could even make its use mandatory across all communication channels. A common knowledge base means less knowledge creation effort as well as consistent customer service across channels, agents, and geographies.
• Start small. Analyze customer queries to identify simple, frequently asked questions (FAQs). Create high-quality responses for these questions. FAQs, typically, take care of almost 80 percent of customer queries-your agents can now focus on more complex and high-value inquiries.
• Create rich content using HTML and graphics to make the information attractive and easy to read.
• Create articles for not just the body of the email message, but also other parts such as header, greeting, signature, and footer. Ideally, an agent should be able to simply mix and match available information with a few mouse clicks instead of having to create new content while answering email messages.
• If agents are forced to create new content, make sure it is reusable. Encourage agents to contribute to the knowledge base with incentives for sharing information. Agent submissions, combined with an approval workflow, can simplify the maintenance of the knowledge base.
• Track article usage closely to fine tune your knowledge base. Preferably, create a self-learning knowledge base.
• Set up your knowledge base such that content can be automatically personalized when the email message is sent. This feature is particularly useful when agents reply to multiple customer email messages with a single response.
• Associate keywords with each knowledge base article. This system will make it easier to both search the knowledge base for information and gain insight into customer concerns.
• Set up your email management system to auto-suggest responses from the knowledge base to accelerate question resolution.
6. Provide Customers Access to the Knowledge Base
• Encourage customers to search the published knowledge base through your corporate website before contacting you by email, chat, or phone. Your goal should be to enable customers to find information regarding frequently asked questions through their own searches of the web. You will notice a significant decrease in agent workload and increase in customer satisfaction.
7. Preempt Customer Inquiries Through Proactive Communication
• Use the reporting capability in your email management system to spot trends and topical concerns that are generating similar customer inquiries. For example, shipping delays due to logistic problems can and should be communicated proactively to all affected customers-this practice would avoid a large number of email messages from your customers and improve customer satisfaction.
• Regularly communicate product and service news to relevant customers. Of course, you must obtain explicit permission from your customers before sending them such email messages.
8. Integrate Email with Other Interaction Channels
• Enable customers to walk into your store, call your agents, or go to your web portal with the confidence that they can continue their email interactions in any of these channels. In addition, your customers should have access to the channel of communication they prefer-email, chat, or a telephone conversation-and have a smooth experience between channels.
9. Understand and Respond to Customer Feedback and Preferences
• Gain insight into concerns that customers are raising, categorize them, and track trends using the reporting and analytics capabilities of your email system. Make this information regularly available through automated online reporting to business decision makers so that they can adjust service capability or product offerings accordingly.
• Integrate marketing and up-sell messages into service responses based on the category of the concern and type of customer. For instance, include a hyperlink to a related promotional offer in the footer of email responses.
10. Use a Proven Solution
• A 100-percent browser-based agent interface for easy deployment that is independent of location
• Categorization and intelligent routing of email messages to the right personnel, regardless of location
• Autoresponses to ensure that customers know when to expect a response
• Suggested responses to help representatives respond quickly yet effectively
• A searchable, self-learning knowledge base that is easy to create, use, and maintain
• Workflow for outgoing email messages to ensure regulatory compliance and quality control
• Secure messaging to authenticate customers before they view confidential information
• Access to complete customer interaction history, with out-of-the box integration with contact center infrastructure and business systems based on open standards
• A comprehensive set of monitoring and reporting tools
• The ability to archive email messages for compliance purposes as well as to keep the main database updated
• A scalable architecture to handle email message volume growth
• Ability to handle multilingual content, where appropriate