Businessweek Archives

Managing E-mail

Business Exchange

Approximately 90% of all Internet users between the ages of 12 and 69 send or receive e-mail. This basic communications tool is almost universally used, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. However, many companies—even those who prize their customer call response times—fall short in managing customer e-mails in a timely and professional manner. Leaving messages unanswered or sending inadequate responses is not the best practice for a universally used communications channel. Following are key points to consider when reviewing the customer e-mail practices of your company.

Set and achieve response time goals. Make e-mail response times a priority. Start by committing to and then achieving competitive response times to all customer e-mails.

Program automatic acknowledgements. You can increase customer confidence and manage customer expectations by programming your system to acknowledge the receipt of each e-mail. The automatic response should thank the customer for their inquiry and let them know when to expect an answer. Customers will accept a delay if they know their request is being processed.

Route e-mails based on inquiry type as well as skill and workload of available agents.

Use historical and real-time reporting to monitor response time and identify trends.

Ensure your system is compatible with existing customer record-keeping systems so agents have immediate access to customer information.

Walter Dabek

Director of Customer Service

Norwalk, Conn.

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