Recently, David Pyrzenski from our Professional Services group posed a question to our Chatter group titled “Email Best Practices Q&A.” He had a client looking for ways to humanize their communications, and they’d quickly landed on swapping out “send-from” email addresses away from the old-school “firstname.lastname@example.org” to something more personal — and manned by real people. After a deep discussion between David, myself and Loren McDonald, we hammered out some great best practices.
Firstly, everyone in the thread agreed with one core premise: Creating more human interactions is Job No. 1, and “Do Not Reply” email addresses are unfortunate leftovers from the earliest days of non-customer-focused communications.
At the same time, replacing this approach requires that you assign the task to real people for the first time — a bridge worth crossing in our collective experience. To be successful, though, you have to make sure the key support functions in your organization are prepared to handle incoming email with the same rigor and process they do with other channels.
Among our group, the consensus best practice approach was a list-driven triage process. You can start by directing the inflow to a short list of three to five people for a first-level triage, then have each message delivered to those who can successfully manage the resolution. Two key points here:
- Send an auto responder letting the sender know you’ve received the email and are working on it
- Report the outcomes to a centralized function that can build a knowledge base over time
There are lots of choices for how you power these systems:
1) Simply offload the function to real people. This meets the humanization goals, but likely doesn’t get you further down the automation path.
2) Use a SaaS offering like ZenDesk. You can configure the system to create a support ticket for each email and allow everyone who touches the request to report status and eventual closure.
3) Outsource it. If you want all the humanization but none of the technology, there are outsourced approaches from firms like CoSupport who can put a beautiful face on your customer support function with highly trained professionals. (A word to the wise: don’t be so smart as to hire someone like CoSupport and then not change a single thing about your back-end resolution processes — you’ve got to be great from issue open to resolution!)
In the spirit of system-wide improvement, make sure to monitor the email topics closely and add any appropriate content to the FAQ section of your website. Our most progressive customers are even beginning to integrate FAQ-type content into the auto-responder in hopes they can proactively answer the customer’s question immediately.
And in case you’re not convinced that humanizing your content is the right way to go, think about the last major purchase you made. How much research did you do beforehand? Who fielded your questions most effectively and quickly? In commoditized businesses like car dealers and electronics retailers, a human relationship often drives a huge percentage of conversions.
At the end of the day, we as marketers should always be questioning the details behind our email program. Are we getting better at relevance? Are we focused on real interaction analytics and not vanity metrics? Are we delivering real value to our recipients? Consider the status quo your enemy, and get on the offensive by killing off that cold and impersonal “do not reply” address.
1) Tip Sheet: “5 Tips for Humanizing Content and Engaging Recipients”
2) Blog: “Why Gary Vaynerchuk Should Be Your Marketing Superhero”
3) Blog: “Why Humanizing Content Is Important”