Once upon a time business was all conducted face-to-face or over the phone. In today’s digital world, we have live chat, social media, online forms, SMS, voice and of course, the now-ubiquitous email. There are more options than ever, but how do we know what will work best for our business?
The reality is, nowadays emails seem to be a preferable channel over voice. But, while it can be more convenient, convenience comes at a price. The polite tone suitable for doing business over email stifles customer engagement and creates barriers for connection that can happen more naturally with a phone chat. When customers are forced to stick to email formalities, the interaction becomes formal and transactional.
Helping the customer solve their problem was the reason most businesses were created in the first place so it’s imperative not to lose sight of this. By opting for email, businesses risk alienating their customers by dehumanising the experience and missing the opportunity to build rapport. When you couple this with slow replies and poor service, customers are left uncertain whether a business can hear, understand or whether it even wants to help them. Do can emails work for your business? Let’s unpack the issues.
Swamped by sales spam
When it comes to sales, we’ve all experienced those random emails that we’ll immediately delete and not even bother reading over. This is because e-mail has become the norm, so most companies now swamp potential customers with emails until they get a response, which rarely happens.
Essentially, the channel effectiveness, in this case, is extremely limited due to the selling email likely to get buried in all the others that the customer will get.
Businesses need to get personal
We all have too many emails. It’s estimated the average person spends 11 hours per week on email; which adds up to 24 days a year. We rarely switch off from our inbox and can read and respond any hour of the day or night. Email is helpful in that it fits around other more pressing priorities. It’s easy to have an attitude of “I’ll get back to you later” with email.
However, this is problematic when it comes to sales and customer service. Not every customer enquiry and issue can be resolved over email, especially when the customer needs to troubleshoot in real-time or needs a compassionate service representative to resolve a tricky issue.
For customers to comfortably communicate their pain points and describe the problem, empathy and human interaction are essential. But on email, tone and emotions are hard to convey and decipher. A customer’s unease, discomfort and frustration are often left unresolved and when left unaddressed, the emotional distress accumulates into resentment towards the business.
Businesses that use emails as their main form of communication are prioritising cost and efficiency over relationships and genuine compassion for the customer’s needs. Avoiding personal communication exposes the organisation to multiple risks – not only jeopardising the opportunity to improve brand perception but also restore faith and build loyalty.
The customer is always right when it comes to their preferred channel
Pushing customers to engage in a way they don’t feel comfortable or confident in will see customers switch off in frustration. Considering over 60 per cent of business is still being conducted via the phone, the customer clearly wants to speak to a real person when they engage a company. On the other hand, if a business really wants to win a customer, the best way is to pick up the phone and speak to them.
Personal communication is one of the most effective ways businesses can learn and understand their customer’s needs. It holds much more value than any other means of communication because it also conveys context, sentiment, intent, emotion and actions, providing real intelligence and driving valuable business outcomes.
According to the 2019 Digital Trends report by Adobe and Econsultancy, 44 per cent of marketers think the biggest challenge they face this year is the difficulty in getting a holistic view of customers across all interactions. Increasingly, customer experience is becoming key in shaping customer’s perception towards a brand and influencing their purchasing decisions. Therefore, understanding and offering the right channels will help the customer’s journey and stimulate long-lasting customer relationships.
Problems need to be addressed immediately
Customer satisfaction isn’t the absence of issues, but how quickly a customer’s needs can be met and issues resolved. This can only happen when both parties clearly understand the problem and the solution, which takes time. Email prolongs this troubleshooting as there are no obligations for either party to respond promptly. This stilted back and forth complicates the conversation and congests it with an endless email chain often fraught with miscommunication and incoherent replies. Emailing quickly becomes a very inefficient method of communicating with their customers.
Impersonal and transactional communication erodes brand value. To satisfy a customer and enhance their experience, businesses must be ready to answer when they call and be equipped with the technology to personalise and add value to the conversation. While email is a vital tool for businesses, they need to be aware that email cannot replace all communications where human interaction is necessary.