Consumers generally hate email for customer service – so much so that some analysts have said that email is dead, and has been replaced by the live assist channels like chat or SMS/MMS. Or in the new world, there is Twitter and customer service from Facebook.

Why does email get such a bad rap? It's because we don’t trust this channel – we have all had the experience of emailing a company’s customer service department and not getting an answer back. Or getting an answer that addressed only half of our question.

Email’s poor performance as a customer service channel is typically a result of the tool’s history.  These systems were typically deployed years ago and have had little care and feeding to maximize their productivity, or align operations to best practices.

Yet, customer service managers want you to use email. It’s a cheaper alternative than live-assist channels. And the automation features built into modern tools make email processing quick and reliable.

So, even with history working against you, if you are offering email to your customers, make sure it works. Follow these these basic steps to restore your customers' faith in this communication channel.

  • Make email part of your multichannel strategy – Don’t think of email as a siloed channel. Provide escalation pathways between your web self-service site and email, and be sure to have a single source of knowledge that is used across all your communication channels. That means that your customers will get the same answer across all touchpoints.
  • Keep your customers in the loop – from the time they send an email into you, to the time that they get an answer to their questions. Always send them an auto-acknowledgement letting them know you got their email. Tell them how long it will take to answer their email. And provide them with alternate contact channels if they want to get an answer right away.
  • Manage your email flow – so that you can meet your SLAs. Set and monitor up your workflows to ensure that emails get sent to the right skillset of agents. And staff each email queue with the right number of agents to make sure you meet your SLAs.
  • Use automation tools – like auto-responses, auto-suggestions to take the load off your agents.
  • Monitor, measure and optimize your email performance – And be flexible enough to change if you find yourself falling behind in your SLAs or quality of customer care.