The Email Contract

May 18, 2010

These days there’s a lot of talk about what the preferred channel of customer service and support will be in the future. Especially with the growth of the social web and new communication channels like Twitter. We of course find that theme extremely interesting, and I can promise you that Zendesk will be your trusted friend regardless of what channel you interact with your customers on.

But an element to this discussion that is often neglected is that customers seek the channel that gives the most bang for the buck. When people start to vent their frustration on Twitter or Yelp, it’s because all other channels have dried out. For example, the phone tree produced a black hole of answers or email just gave them automated responses. Customers will gravitate to the channel that is most convenient and where they get the best and most prompt answers from real people. That may be your community forums or your knowledge base (have you seen what’s coming in that regard btw?) or just shooting you an email.

I’m from a generation where email is the easiest and most straightforward way to deal with folks and businesses around me. I sometime email a colleague sitting only a few cubicles away from me. I also email my bank, my lawyer, my local grocery, my kids’ school and my wife. Basically I email everybody with whom I have an email contract meaning with whom I can expect an answer pretty swiftly after sending the email. That reply time vary by recipient of course. My bank has a different SLA than my wife.

If a new acquaintance or service provider doesn’t answer my e-mails within what I perceive as a reasonable time, they break the email contract and our conversation will move to a different channel. Often a less convenient channel for me (and possibly for them).

We often see that when customers implement Zendesk it results in a lot more customer interactions, their support traffic easily doubles because Zendesk fulfills the email contract. We all know how complicated email management can be. Today professionals can receive hundreds of e-mails every day. And making sure that every email is dealt with properly is just plain painful. Small businesses easily receive thousands of emails per week and sometimes per day. Zendesk helps compaines deal with this kind of email volume. Suddenly the company can deal with hundreds or thousands of emails and even provide a lot of transparency and convenience on top of that. So their customers will gravitate to the email channel because it works. (For more on handling email volume with Zendesk check out the Tip of the Week we wrote about organizing incoming tickets with multiple email addresses).

Back in November 2009 we asked our customers what they thought would be the most dominant customer support channel in the future. A whopping 50% believed that email would be the most dominant, with only 18% believing in phone support. Support via social media came in last. I believe that the survey was greatly colored by the fact that we have enabled our customers to engage their customers via email in such an easy, convenient and enjoyable way, that it simply has changed how they think about it as a medium.

So to all the companies out there still afraid of putting their email addresses prominently on their web site, take Zendesk for a spin and see how we can help you establish an email contract with your customers.