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Four Best Practices for an Effective Email Support Strategy

Stephan Cizmar

Today, most of the buzz in customer experience is centered around AI assistants and rightfully so because they are fundamentally changing the way customers interact with brands. Despite the attention they're receiving, we are still in the early phases of large scale adoption of chatbots and virtual assistants and, from a channel breakdown, email remains the most commonly used customer service channel with Forrester finding that nearly 54% of consumers prefer it as their top method of outreach for support.

Email is often regarded as a fallback for issues that are too complex for self service documentation or virtual assistants to solve and the asynchronous nature of it allows customers to reach out on their own time without having to wait on hold. According to Zendesk, 65% of companies polled currently offer email support and that number is expected to grow to 85% by the end of 2021. Here are four best practices for an effective email support strategy regardless of where you are in your adoption cycle:

1. Establish an Email Support Style and Etiquette

Effective support email communication is underpinned by consistent style and clear and simple steps for resolution. More often than not, bad service is defined by poor writing, inconsistent tone, and lack of formatting; all of which negatively impact the customer experience. There are several items that a CX leader should consider when constructing an email channel approach: tone of voice, personalization, structure, and visuals are all critical and should be included in every style guide. In general these are the must haves for an effective email:

  1. Personalization: Address the customer by name and sign emails with the agent's name. Adding a personal touch can go a long way to establishing empathy with your customers.
  2. Gratitude: Always say thank you, this is a powerful way to strengthen customer relationships by showing them that you appreciate their feedback regardless of tone or content.
  3. Simplicity: Write with clarity and simplicity when explaining complex instructions for a customer's issue. A general framework of using bullet points and visuals is an effective starting point for effective emails.
  4. Tone: A survey of over 2,000 respondents found that 65% preferred a casual tone in customer support. Treat the customer as if they're someone you know personally but be sure to not go too casual since 78% of respondents stated than an overly casual tone had a negative impact on their customer experience.

No matter what the situation, agents responding to emails should always show a proactive, determined attitude and every email should convey the idea that a solution will be found and that the company is happy to assist the customer in the process. Positive language will reassure customers, while negative, doubtful, or even sloppy language (such as spelling errors) will make them question your competence as a brand.

2. Integrate Self Service Resources

Email is an effective way in helping customers use self-service. If the solution to a customer's issue requires long and multi-step instructions, leverage your help center's documentation by linking it directly in the email. Customer loyalty is reinforced by reducing the amount of effort required to get to resolution and often times lengthy and tedious emails can be annoying to deal with; the body of the email should never contain too much content that might overwhelm the customer. Links to your help center and self service documentation is an effective way to save your agents time on potential back and forth with customers looking to solve complex issues and can increase the number of one-touch contacts.

3. Use Automation Where You Can

Response times are critical for maintaining and bolstering customer experience and loyalty. As a result, every high-functioning CX organization should leverage automation to increase their team's productivity. Canned responses are an effective way to respond to repetitive issues and can save your support reps tons of time, so long as they have a personal touch. Automation can also help with tedious agent tasks like tagging, routing, prioritization/escalation, and triaging of email support requests. In turn, this empowers support reps to focus more on customer issues and less on manual tasks resulting in higher throughput. Most people assume that automation is about replacing or minimizing human-to-human interaction, that's not the goal at all. In fact, automation applied to email can help with the following:

  1. CSAT and Response Times: Canned replies to simple, one-touch issues and automated email responses acknowledging that a customer's issue has been received and your team is working for a resolution can go a long way to improving response times and customer satisfaction.
  2. Increased Productivity: Automated routing and prioritization helps direct issues to the agents best equipped to handle them and reduces the amount of time required to triage incoming issues.
  3. Reduced Human Error: Automated internal agent guidance helps reduce human error and ensures consistency for all issue types, simple to complex.

4. Data and Insights are Critical for Improved Processes

As with any customer support channel, measuring metrics on your email channel is key for surfacing opportunities for process improvement. It is important to understand what topics are coming through each of your channels and how you optimize your agents and automation to handle the various issue types. Customer behavior changes faster than CX processes and it is important for every CX leader to have up-to-date and real-time insights on what their customers are asking for so that they can maintain agile processes.

A Strong Email Strategy Directly Translates to Better Customer Relationships

Email is huge as a support channel and it is critical that CX leaders have a well defined strategy to ensure that their customers are receiving the best experience through this channel. An effective email strategy directly translates to better customer relationships and each interaction with customers should leave them happy and excited to be doing business with your brand. A strong foundation of automation and analytics can go a long way of ensuring that your response times are quick and your customer satisfaction is high. Lang's platform helps CX teams automate manual tasks and increases agent productivity ultimately leading to faster resolution times and higher overall customer satisfaction. Read our case study with Petal Card to learn how Lang helped reduce their overall support volume by 26% by automating replies to one touch support emails.

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