Email Response Management Systems
What It Is
An email response management system is a computerized system that receives, acknowledges, analyzes, and organizes email inquiries submitted by customers and routes the emails to the appropriate resources for response. The system tracks the status of the inquiries from receipt to completion and provides tools such as auto–responses, auto–suggestions, and response libraries to help contact center staff respond to inquiries more efficiently.
Why It’s Important
Contact centers are striving to serve their customers using communication channels of the customer’s choice. Offering an email option on your website provides another channel to interact with your customers. It allows your customers to communicate their needs to you at any time via email.
Key Features for Email Response Management Systems
- Source Filtering—Ability to accept email only from approved sources (for example, specified domains and sub–domains, specified webforms).
- Support Large Number of Incoming Mailboxes—Ability to support large number of mailboxes with disparate routing and business rules.
- Support Multiple Email Formats—Ability to accept freeform email as well as email submitted via a webform.
- Support Multiple Content Formats—Ability to send and receive email inquiries in ASCII text and rich-text formats.
- Attachments—Ability to send and receive email with attachments.
- Configurable Content Filtering—Ability to automatically filter out spam, duplicates, tests, and other nuisance or invalid emails based on predefined rules.
- Blocking—Ability to block emails from automated submission systems and from specific email addresses and domains.
- Auto–Acknowledgement—Ability to send auto acknowledgement immediately upon receipt of an email inquiry.
- Auto–Forward—Ability to immediately forward a copy of all incoming email to designated recipient(s).
- Routing—Ability to analyze the source, destination, subject, and/or content of the email inquiries and route to the appropriate resources based on agent availability and/or skills, and business rules.
- Tracking Number—Ability to automatically generate a tracking number and associate it with each incoming email immediately upon receipt.
- Status Tracking—Ability to track status of email inquiries from receipt to completion, including date and time of receipt and completion, response time, and disposition.
- Response Library—Ability to create and store a comprehensive library of response templates for common inquiries.
- Auto–Response—Ability to analyze email subject and content and automatically respond with a preapproved response that corresponds to the inquiry.
- Auto-Suggest—Ability to analyze email subject and content and suggest the most relevant answer(s) for use by the agent to respond.
- Grammar and Spelling Checks—Ability to allow email agents to perform grammar and spelling checks on email correspondence before it is prior to sending of email.
- Bcc—Ability to send Blind carbon copy(s) or Bcc(s) to designated recipient(s) when an email response is sent.
- Management Reports—Ability to provide comprehensive daily reports with weekly, monthly, and annual rollups.
Things to Consider When Adding Email Service
- Complexity—Email may not be the most effective channel for supporting your customers if the questions involve diverse or complex subject matters and the response workflow does not allow for back–and–forth probing to clarify questions. The inability for agents to probe the customers to clarify their questions before responding may lead to wrong or incomplete answers, which directly affects customer satisfaction. Decide whether you want to permit or block back–and–forth exchanges between agent and customer. The nature of your program will help you decide whether the possibility of multiple exchanges provides an optimal response and is worth the added cost and complexity, whether it adds little value, or whether it is necessary but cost–prohibitive considering your budget. If the latter is true, email may not be a good fit for your program.
- Cost—While much about the email channel makes it a pricey alternative (complexity, time needed to respond), it does offer one cost benefit. Email doesn’t require that your center to be staffed with a large number of agents needed to handle incoming inquiries quickly—often within a timeframe specified in seconds, as is true with phone calls and web chats. Email allows more flexibility in staffing since inquiries don't need to be answered in real time.
- Auto–Response/Auto–Suggest or Agent–Answered—Decide whether the questions your customers will ask can readily be answered without human intervention. If you believe they can be, consider a system that offers an immediate response based on key content in the question. You can combine this feature with the ability to allow a customer to go on to an agent if he or she feels that the auto–response does not satisfy the question.
- Personalized or Canned Responses—For agent–answered responses, think again about the questions your customers will ask and how you want to answer them. Customers prefer personalized answers over canned answers but preparing personalized answers is more labor intensive, thus costs more to support. Choosing responses from a library of canned answers is less labor intensive for the agent, but customers may be less satisfied with the impersonal experience.
- Systems Integration—To the extent practicable, select a system that can be easily integrated with systems that support other contact center activities, such as phone and web chat, knowledgebase, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
- Privacy and Security—Think about your business and what you need from customers in order to answer their email inquiries. If you need customers to include personally identifiable information (PII) in their email, you’ll need to secure the information to guard against unauthorized access and use of sensitive data.
- Linking to Web Resources—The URLs of your Web resources can be lengthy and cumbersome for your agents to use when responding to an email or web chat inquiry. If your website is maintained by government employees or a contractor who has access to a government email account, you can use Go.USA.gov to create short .gov URLs from official government domains, such as .gov, .mil, .si.edu, or .fed.us URLs. If your website is maintained by a contractor who doesn't have access to a government email account, you can use bitly, the Google URL Shortener, or some similar service to shorten a .gov or .mil URL. You can include the short URL in the corresponding resource in your knowledgebase. The agent can then reference the short URL in the email or web chat response when providing a link to that resource.