Venerable old email is a positively ancient form of communication when compared with the multitude of social media and chat offerings that have sprung up over the last decade. You might be forgiven for thinking that email is old news and that contact centres manage it as well as they do voice calls.
It's one thing to deliver emails to your contact center agents, but quite another to do so in a way that maintains the delicate balance between keeping agents busy, keeping inbound queues within their SLAs and making sure that emails are not just answered, but actually resolved.
So how do wise contact centers cope with this challenge?
- Automate. A 'bot' can pick out the key phrases in your emails and ensure they go to the most suitable agent or team. This will make you more efficient, but don't overestimate the bot - a human agent is the real value in your contact center.
- Distribute. Make sure that you are using an automated method for distributing emails fairly as they arrive. They should be allocated based on a strategy such as 'longest waiting agent'.
- Blend. Agents working on emails are great candidates to be blended across to voice calls when your incoming phone lines get busy. Make use of the fact that an email is not as urgent as a call and move agents based on the urgency of your workload.
- Track. An email may contain several questions and need answers from different sources. Make sure your emails have a conclusion. A response should ideally be a resolution, not the start of a thread.
- Report. As a supervisor, know the average response time and how effective your agents are at giving a single response to resolve each query.
- Personalise. If an agent already has a relationship with a customer you will usually want to exploit this. This applies to other media types, but the slower nature of emails means that this is easier to effect. The personal touch is something that consumers prefer, so exploit this as far as you can.
Email is not an exciting new media that presents a whole new set of challenges. Quite the reverse. It has not changed significantly in many years. However, after voice it is still the single most important source of inbound contact center queries. Customers like it, so you should ensure that you give it the priority it deserves and manage those emails as efficiently as you do other media types.