Don’t neglect email in an omnichannel world

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As companies embrace fast-growing channels such as social media there’s a perception that these essentially replace older methods of communication. In some cases this is true, but it is important to realise that consumers don’t automatically move to new channels just because they are there. After all, if that was the case no-one would be calling your contact centre any more.

What consumers want is to be able to contact you on the channel of their choice. And this varies depending on a number of factors, such as where they are in the customer journey, whether they are at home or on the move and what device they are using. Sometimes they want to receive personal service through web chat or telephone, whereas at other points they simply want to access information as quickly as possible using web self-service. More and more consumers use multiple channels over the course of a transaction – and expect you to be able to link them together to provide a seamless experience.

Recent research from Custora backs up the need to provide choice. It analysed the channels online retailers used to acquire customers – and their value. The study found that over the last four years the number of customers acquired through the email channel had quadrupled to nearly 7%. And these customers were 11% more valuable than average over the first two years of the customer relationship.

If customers come to you via email, it is likely that they want to continue using the channel to interact. Therefore you need to ensure that you have fast, efficient email customer service in place to deal with their queries – or they will simply disappear to one of your rivals. Unfortunately not all businesses provide this. The 2012 Eptica Customer Experience Study found that just 39% of companies could answer a simple question emailed to them (against 48% in 2011) and that time to respond varied from a blistering 19 minutes to a tortoise-like one month plus.

In an omnichannel world the moral of the story is be where your customers are. Different demographic groups prefer particular channels, so research and understand your customers in order to provide the best possible experience however they contact you. Link your channels to make the journey seamless, share information to increase consistency and efficiency and give customers the choices they are looking for.

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