Just a few years ago there was an expectation that we wouldn’t be talking about email as major customer interaction channel as we entered this third decade of the millennium.
10th February 2020
by Derek Lewis
Head of Customer Experience
Across the analyst and consulting communities the message was that the introduction of self-service and secure transactional systems, plus the development of new digital channels as alternatives to traditional email, would result in the ultimate demise of shared mailboxes that are poorly managed and manually handled by expensive resources across the organisation.
Many analysts, such as Forrester, recommended divesting in email response management due to ‘high maturity and low business value’ focussing instead on investment in ‘low maturity, high business value’ solutions such as chat, interactive analytics and knowledge management etc.
In hindsight, there is plenty of evidence that the investment recommendations have delivered benefits across many organisations, but the advice to ignore the email workloads ‘assuming they would reduce or disappear’ would appear to have been premature.
Whilst a few large organisations have successfully managed to significantly reduce the volume and impact of unstructured email based customer communications, the vast majority of businesses, regardless of size, have not.
In recent years, for instance, Very Group eliminated many mailboxes and email addresses as they closed and absorbed their historical brands and customer communities into their Very brand which provides account holders with a range of communication options via secure login to the customer portal, including provision for structured text based enquiries and feedback. Following on from the significant savings made and the behavioural change within their customer base, Very have invested successfully in chatbot, knowledge base and AI solutions improving customer experience cross both sales and customer service transactions.
Conversely, at the CCMA ‘Future of Retail Contact Centres Roundtable’ in October, there was overwhelming consensus from the broad variety of retailers that email continued to grow and was a challenge for the business that was absorbing valuable staff and budget – and needed to be addresses. One attendee, from a long established UK retail brand, declared jokingly that their default email management strategy was ‘death’: “We have customers that will keep emailing us until they die!”
Supporting the opinion of the attendees at the CCMA event is research from Davies Hickman, sponsored by Avaya, reporting that number of customers ‘that have contacted a large organisation using email in the last six months’ increased by 2% from 66% in 2015 to 68% in 2018. Further evidence suggesting email remains to be a valid channel that needs to be managed to support customer experience objectives with appropriate costs is my own observations over the last 18 months: I meet with customers every week that still have a high volume of unmanaged email, processed manually in shared mailboxes, with high staffing and no clear measurements around volumes, contact reasons or service SLAs at all!
Given the investments made in email processing functionality within established Contact Centre solutions from vendors such as Avaya, Mitel and Maintel’s own Callmedia, taking more control over the processing of emails should be seen as ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ enabling projects that should deliver a quick impact in 2020 and result in savings that will support other, more future focused, CX initiatives.
In contrast, for those organisations that insist on ignoring or denying their email challenges, the continued use of shared mailboxes with manual handling could end up being a ‘Rotten Apple’ with an impact on costs and resources that could easily spread to adversely impact operations and customer service across other interaction channels and ultimately delay delivery and benefits of other CX projects.
For more information on Contact Centre Automation, including Email processing please see our blog by clicking here.