Did you know that over 90% of customers chose to stay in touch with a business by opting-in via email newsletter rather than a social media channel such as Facebook? Nope. We didn’t either. But that’s not really that surprising either. Email usage is constantly rising and we’re spending more and more of our waking minutes in our inboxes. It’s a vehicle that moves not only our personal lives forward but also our work lives. And when it comes to interacting with businesses online as a consumer, email is, simply put, king of the hill. We sign in with our email addresses, we create wish lists with them, we receive order confirmations with them, we keep track of shipment notifications with them, and when shit hits the fan, email drives the majority of our customer service experiences because everything else preceding it has been through your inbox at one point or another.
But what about businesses? What other advantages does email provide that other tools such as social media can’t or don’t? Why should businesses continue to leverage email (and enhance the email experience) when customers are becoming more acquainted to omni-channel support and service?
1) Stickiness. Email is sticky. You get it in your inbox. Like mail. Gasp! Because of its sticky nature, email has by far the most reach in terms of getting customers’ attentions. Like a friendly letter from the IRS, it grabs on and never lets go, until you shred it and trash it. Even so, email is in fact a two-way street. Sending an email generates stickiness for and from the customer when content is relevant and timely. Receiving customer emails augments that stickiness you’ve already created, helps you run your business better, and increase revenues in a tangible way. In order to properly maintain this two way street you’ll need the right tools. Email marketing with good contact management and segmentation for out-bounds and a capable helpdesk with multichannel support for in-bounds are a must for any business that drives value from emails.
2) Contextual. Email is contextual by nature because you can read it when you want and when things are top of mind for you. It’s not pushed on you (since you’ve opted-in) and you’re not forced to engage with it (since you decide when to open it). When looked at objectively, email marketing still works; but truly great email marketing campaigns require great content as well. Writing about and informing customers of new features or products is always good. Informing them of industry trends is another. Asking them to share their thoughts and feedback can’t hurt either. If you have segmentation capabilities, you can also talk about more specific topics to make your content more relevant and top of mind. To boost clickthroughs and conversions, think about content that will generate more two-way communication rather than a one-sided conversation.
3) Distance. Email creates distance and sometimes that’s just what’s needed. Not feeling constrained or suffocated is chalked up as a positive customer experience. Like a good relationship, we all need space. And like a good argument, there’s nothing enough time won’t fix. In that sense, email marketing and email drive customer service can do wonders to fix a broken relationship. Some best practices include not reaching out via social media while a customer is at his/her anger peak. Instead, focus on reaching out after their poor impression of a disappointing episode has lapsed and you’ve taken the time and effort to correct a mistake. Reach out when you have a positive experience to offer, maybe a coupon, a free e-book, or a special event that’s purely designed to restore confidence and attitudes. If we know anything about customer happiness it’s that cadence matters. You can find a myriad of articles talking about the pros and cons of email frequency (such as this one) but many fail to mention the balance between frequency and content relevancy when it comes to creating distance or bridging distances with customers. Use email-based communications to your advantage!
4) In-Bound Management. Email is flexible unlike social media or live chat. Each provides its advantages but email is by far the most familiar and most effective at reducing barriers to entry for in-bound conversations. If customers are receiving out-bounds from you, it only makes sense if they can easily reach back out.
5) Potential. Email is the centerpiece of a broader communication strategy for a brand. One problem we’re trying to solve here at Reamaze is the challenge between marketing teams, revenue operations teams, and support teams. Marketing teams often use email as the primary engine for informing customers of business activities and opportunities. Revenue operations teams use email for generating leads and upselling existing and new customers. Customer support teams undoubtedly use email for supporting customers through issues both happy and sad. The current standard of differentiating teams between sending and receiving customer messages creates a certain level of chaos and ambiguity. Marketing might send emails to customers announcing a promotional discount or a new feature. Revenue teams should know about it follow up with potential customers on upsell opportunities. And customer support teams should be ready for the flux of inbound questions asking why, when, and how to use the features or redeeming a discount documented in the original outbound email. Businesses of the future have a lot to think about in terms of integrating these three channels, all driven by email, into a single streamlined tool.
By Lu Wang
Lu Wang is the CEO and co-founder of Reamaze.com and Roninapp.com. He is the co-author of the Customer Service Handbook – A Guide to Great Teams and Cultures, an avid watch collector, and a lover of all things with great design.