Could Emails be Ruining Your Customer Service?

Lauren Krause
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As customers grow increasingly attached to online communication, the age of the service call center is drawing to a close. Instead, many customer service departments are turning to social media and email. While email has the potential to be an important service tool, the opposite is also true: Your email mistakes may be sabotaging your service strategy and damaging customer relationships.

Response Times

Modern consumers are accustomed to instant gratification, especially since many businesses use Twitter and instant messaging to provide quick answers. While most customers don't expect an instant answer to a service email, response times are still crucial. If your customer service department allows more than 24 hours to pass before sending a response, it may be too late. For best results, send an automated email immediately after a complaint is submitted, and send a progress report within the next day. Prompt replies de-escalate a customer's emotional state and provide proof of action.

Lack of Automation

In large companies, a lack of email automation is a death knell for a customer service email program. Without a system to receive, categorize, direct and monitor emails, it is easy for customer messages to slip through the cracks. The level of automation your company requires depends on the size of the business and the frequency of service emails. At a minimum, you should have an auto-responder and a way to track the reply status of each incoming email. Companies with high email volumes should invest in an advanced email management system that interprets and sorts messages by content.

Decentralized Flow

One common problem with email for customer service is a lack of centralization. When emails come in via forms and email programs, it can be difficult to track them. As a result, some businesses are doing away with service email addresses, opting instead for a single contact portal. The portals usually include a contact form with required fields; if all of the fields are not filled in, customers cannot submit the form. This step ensures that all emails can be sorted correctly. For further sorting ease, many programs include a drop-down menu that enables customers to choose the topic or problem type.

Lack of Personalization

Fewer things irritate an agitated customer more than a boilerplate customer service email. One automatic email, usually a confirmation that the complaint was received, is usually acceptable. After that, customers usually expect communication that is personalized to the problem at hand. While it may not be possible to type a personal response for each problem, your email templates should include a wide variety of options to cater to common issues; if possible, the template text should sound organic and conversational, rather than cold and unfriendly. The program should automatically pull the customer's name, order details and problem details into the message. By making service emails sound friendlier and more personal, you can create a more positive feeling.

When used correctly, email can be a valuable customer service tool. As you implement a robust email system into your service department, take care to avoid common mistakes that alienate customers and damage relationships.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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