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Targeted Email: From Spam to Choice Part 6

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Posted March 27, 2003 By Bruce McCracken     Feedback

Companies that fail to get serious about their management of customer service e-mail now will ultimately pay the price with higher customer service costs and lost revenues down the line. Bruce McCracken finishes his series on targeted e-mail with a look at the growing reliance on business intelligence for companies looking to meet customer demands.

It is irrefutable that a well designed and executed targeted e-mail campaign produces results with a very positive return on investment (ROI). Frequently, organizations fail to see the bigger potential and assess the endeavor from a long-term strategic perspective. Targeted e-mail is an opportunity for a mutually beneficial two-way flow of communications between the corporation and its clients, customers.

All too often customer responses are not dealt with in a timely and efficient manner in areas of support and fulfillment. This results in erosion of the relationship and can become self-defeating in the efforts of the organization to build stronger loyalty from the customers.

Coordination between departments and business processes must be accomplished. High-level management and key strategic teams must have visibility throughout the enterprise to see the over all process with clarity. The interrelated components of the customer life cycle are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Many weaknesses and fissures in the structure may threaten the execution of an end-to-end customer satisfaction solution. Reinforcing the weak points, alleviating bottlenecks, and streamlining processes with coordinated integration from a customer centric perspective will go a long ways in accomplishing a CRM objective. The ability to see into the reality may dispel the customer service myth that many enterprises believe.

CRM: Customer Rapport Mismanagement?
David Daniels, senior analyst for Jupiter Research states, "Companies that fail to get serious about their management of customer service e-mail now will pay the price with higher customer service costs and lost revenues down the line. Inadequate service in the online channel only accelerates the rate at which customers turn to their telephone."

The results in the future will be increased costs for customer service and support as the volume grows. This is illustrated in the figure below from the February 2003 Jupiter Research report, "Jupiter Market Forecast Report: CRM Through 2008."

Online Touch Points Post Modest Growth — Phone Will Continue to Dominate

Service Contracts, Online and Off-line,  2002 - 2008

A key finding of the report states, "Online CRM technology spending will grow to $4.7 billion in 2008. While the share of service contacts initiated online will double between 2003 and 2008, phone contacts will dominate, growing to 58 billion in 2008. Increasing e-mail contacts will frustrate businesses and consumers; accordingly, businesses must invest in e-mail infrastructure and resource enhancements now."

The report further states, "Notwithstanding the continued failure of most businesses operating online to manage inbound e-mail well, e-mail volume will more than double over the next five years, from one billion in 2003 to 3.3 billion in 2008. In a recent Jupiter Consumer Survey, 88 percent of respondents said they have used e-mail to contact customer service. However, the continued lackluster performance of e-mail service will continue to drive customers to use the phone, leading to snowballing service costs and ultimately making e-mail the most expensive customer service touch point to process."

The business support and customer service design in implementing new technologies may be at fault. Fundamental errors at the foundation may account for much of the problem.

Some light can be shed by the report, "Results of Research: Trends in Web Based Support" conducted in October 2002 by and The study surveyed 78 respondents across all verticals and sizes of businesses. Some of the findings indicate a gap in adopting online and e-mail support when viewed from the perspective of strategic planning. While 76 percent said customer demand for their Web-based support options has increased, 65 percent of respondents aren't measuring ROI from their e-service initiatives. Of slightly more than a third that do, 25 percent said they've not been able to quantify ROI to date. The report indicated that only 60 percent of the respondents "have a formalized strategy in place for delivering Web-based service and support." Only about half are "leveraging a problem management feature that creates a single trouble ticket when a customer begins with a self-service session and escalates to a phone call."

These results indicate major problems in the development of a sound strategy to deliver customer care. Perhaps the biggest crime is that the policies are not customer centric. The varied approaches seem to be to the convenience the company and/or speculation about what the customer wants. Customers are not offered a wide menu of options to choose their preferred method of contact. Sadly, less than half of the respondents inquire as to the customer's satisfaction with the process. The following figures from the research speak for themselves in amplifying support design flaws.

Has the demand for your web-based customer service increased, decreased or stayed the same over the last year?

Choice Number
Of Responses
Percent Graph
Remained the same
Total Responses: 78 100%  

If customers/employees fail in their attempt to solve their issue, what escalation features do you have in place? (Choose all that apply)

Choice Number
Of Responses
Percent Graph
Automated Call Back Option
Total Responses: 136 100%  

It is important to note that in the figure immediately above, that the 78 companies surveyed were offered choices in four categories and could choose all that applied. This offered a potential of 312 responses if each respondent offered an option in each category. Yet the responses totaled only 136, an average of 1.74 without any single feature being available to customers by half of the respondents. Perhaps lessons that should have been learned about consumers from the dot-com bust of 2000/2001 have not been mastered.

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