E-Mail Drops the Ball as a Customer Service Tool
Poor e-mail customer service is driving up the costs of customer service for companies and is alienating customers, according to research by Jupiter. And for once, the online retailers aren't entirely to blame.
Greenfield Online found that for 10 consecutive quarters, more than 60 percent of U.S. online consumers have made at least one purchase on the Web. Imagine what retailers could do if they gave customers what they wanted.
Read Despite Customer Service Woes, Online Retailing Keeps Growing
The majority of consumers expect to resolve their customer service inquiry within six hours, but only 38 percent of companies are meeting this expectation and 33 percent are taking three days or longer to do so or are not responding at all. Jupiter's quarterly Customer Service WebTrack Survey found that the percentage of companies that did not respond to inquiries has risen from 19 percent to 24 percent.
"The increase in sites that are not responding to customer inquiries via e-mail is a signal that many companies still have not mastered e-mail customer service management. Inefficient e-mail handling is causing customer service representatives to spend more time assisting customers via e-mail than they could by phone -- in effect, making phone service more cost effective for companies than e-mail," said David Daniels, Jupiter analyst. "Jupiter has found that companies can improve customer service response times drastically via e-mail automation, but they must use technology that can accurately answer inquiries without intervention from customer service representatives. Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology can accomplish that goal while reducing staffing levels by 40 percent for companies that handle large volumes of e-mail."
According to the Jupiter's research also found that travel companies (12 percent) and corporate brand Web sites (0 percent) are the least effective at resolving customer inquiries within six hours, while financial services companies (46 percent) rank No. 2 behind retailers. Customers are also increasingly in search of immediately gratifying solutions to their service issues -- and customer e-mail response expectations have been increasing over the last two years, from 24 hours to 12 to six. Businesses must act quickly to catch up to customer demands, before expectations increase to more challenging levels.
"Poor e-mail customer service is driving up the costs of customer service for companies and is alienating customers. When e-mail expectations are not met, customers are being forced to initiate a second contact via more costly channels, including the phone," Daniels said. "Over the last several years, companies have bought into vendor claims that e-mail automation can lower costs and raise efficiencies. However, recent Jupiter research indicates that e-mail automation has not been perfected and will not be until NLP is integrated."
Companies looking to improve e-mail customer service should automate knowledge management by investing in NLP, according to Jupiter analysts, who believe that most companies can accurately answer 50 percent of their basic customer service e-mails without any CSR intervention. Companies should also utilize NLP for personalization and use autoacknowledgments to set realistic timing expectations. A Jupiter Consumer Survey found that only 34 percent of consumers said that companies responded within the time that the autoacknowledgment provided.
Reprinted from CyberAtlas.