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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
July 2007 - Volume 26 / Number 2
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Call Center E-mail Response On The Decline

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor


Traditional call centers have long been a staple of the point of contact for the customer. Historically, these centers were viewed as cost centers for the company as their only purpose was to keep the customer happy and that was not directly related to revenues. While this view is misguided, it still formed the basis for the traditional call center and, in some industries, this erroneous view still thrives.

However, for a majority of companies, times most certainly have changed and while consumers as a whole still prefer to call a company and speak to a live representative, e-mail is becoming a more popular communication choice than in the past. However, unless these companies take a more customer-centric approach to this communication channel, they may have fewer customers burning up any of their channels.

Hornstein Associates (www.hornsteinassociates.com) studies the responsiveness of organizations across multiple industries. In the firm's annual e-mail responsiveness survey, results indicated a steady decline in the customer service response rates since 2002. In 2007, only 33 percent of companies responded to e-mails sent to customer service within 24 hours, a decrease of almost half from a high of 63 percent in 2002.

According to ICMI's 2007 Quality Monitoring Report, more than three quarters, or 77.7 percent, of call centers handle customer
e-mail transactions, with only about two thirds, or 64 percent, actually monitoring e-mail contacts.

The use of the Web has also increased over the past several years and customers are increasingly using this portal for communicating with companies. As a result, many companies are making this communication channel available to their customers. The good news is that these companies are also monitoring them for performance.

________________________In 2007, only 33 percent of companies responded to e-mails sent to customer service within 24 hours, a decrease of almost half from a high of 63 percent in 2002.
Since ICMI's 2004 study, the use of Web chat as a contact channel - and the monitoring of chat transactions — have both increased. According to the 2007 study, 12.8 percent of this year's respondents indicated that their center handles chat sessions, compared to only 8.7 percent three years ago. Although only 54.5 percent of these organizations monitored this channel in 2004, 70.3 percent are now monitoring this channel. However, only 27.4 percent of centers that offer Web self-service options take the time to monitor customers' self-service interactions.

Self-service is a great option to afford customers - after all, we as a society are demanding it. However, our demand for customer service continues to increase as well and companies that fail to recognize this will quickly lose customers to those companies that do. Monitoring all communication channels does require time and money, but it is well-spent when customers are happy. After all, happy customers are loyal customers.

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