Trash the Canned Emails in Your Call Center


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Nearly a year ago, I wrote a blog entitled Self –Serve: Cheap can be very expensive about the high customer experience cost of the self-serve model. Imagine my delight to see a recently published study conducted by TSIA and Coveo supporting Customer Relationship Metrics’ conclusion. Among the study’s findings was the fact that while voice and face-to-face contact are the most expensive ways to support customers, they also result in the greatest customer satisfaction.

I realize this study is not going to make anyone shut down their email, web chat and self-serve programs, so instead this three-part blog series is designed to help you make these types of interactions better for your customers and provide you with greater customer insights into the customer experience results for the various channels handled in your call center.

Servicing Email “Better” in your Call Center

There are two key challenges that must be overcome in your call center when communicating with customers via email:

1) Gathering all of the necessary information to solve an issue can be a time-consuming and frustrating process for the call center agent and the customer.

2) Genuinely connecting with a customer and conveying the pillars of good customer service – ownership, expertise, valuing the customer’s business and time – is difficult.

Information Gathering

On a phone call or face-to-face, this process is swift and may even be enjoyable with the right combination of professionalism and friendly banter. But via email, both the customer and the call center agent are caught in an uncomfortable limbo awaiting a response from the other party. While part of this pain is inherent to this mode of communication, the level of pain can be mitigated with a little planning and forethought. Based on the customer’s initial email, call enter agents should attempt to identify the most likely two or three root causes of the customer’s issue and in an organized and concise manner ask the customer the questions necessary to narrow down those two or three options down to one. Once the root cause of the issue is identified, comprehensive responses / solutions have been found to be most important to customers and the single largest area of failure in the email customer experience.

Connecting the Call Center Agent (a person) with the Customer

Delete your form letters. Yes, I know, someone spent a whole lot of time crafting them to perfection, but they suck and customers hate them. There’s a place for pre-crafted verbiage, specifically technical and detailed product-specific information. But the moment you provide your call center agents with a “canned” email template, they’re going to use it “as is” and your instruction to personalize it will result in a cursory check to make sure the customer’s name is somewhere in the email and that the greeting is time-of-day appropriate. Your call center agents have personalities (at least some of them do), encourage them to interject their personalities into emails in workplace-appropriate ways. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Instead of starting each email with the generic and boring “Thank you for contacting COMPANY’S NAME customer service. We value your business and …..” ask each agent to create a headline for their emails that includes their favorite customer-service quote or a personal customer-service mantra.

2) Have your agents recall their worst customer service experience ever as a customer (airlines, banks, cell phone companies – so many from which to pick). Then ask them what they most wanted to hear from the customer service agent at that very moment? What was the one thing the agent could have said to make it all better? Have them integrate those phrases into their emails.

3) Colloquial language = good and human. Bad grammar and/or spelling = bad. Very, very bad.

4) Encourage all of your call center agents to make use of media to assist customers. According to a study conducted by Vitrue, (Facebook) posts which contained images or videos were far more effective than text-only posts. The same concept applies to email interactions. If your company has video tutorials for common problems, encourage agents to include a link to an appropriate video in the email. If your call center supports products which are readily available for agents to see / touch, encourage them to include a picture of the part / function in question with their email responses.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Carmit DiAndrea
Carmit DiAndrea is the Vice President of Research and Client Services for Customer Relationship Metrics. Prior to joining Metrics, Carmit served as the Vice President of Behavior Analytics at TPG Telemanagement, a leading provider of quality management services for Fortune 500 companies. While at TPG she assisted clients in measuring behaviors, and provided management services to assist in affecting change based on newly created intelligence.


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