As of June 2022, 64% of US customers prefer email when contacting brands, so it’s clear why email is a mainstay in customer support programs. Even still, the Internet’s snail mail can sometimes translate to a slow and negative experience.
So, how do you maximize email as a customer service channel? You use it as a stepping stone to point customers to faster support channels.
Email is simply the medium; the resources are your answer. From including Help Center articles in your emails to replacing a raw mailto link with a user-friendly contact form, we’ll present plenty of ways to transform email into an efficient support channel.
Like all channels, email has its benefits and weaknesses, but you can’t rely on it alone. Here’s what you can expect from email as a customer service channel.
It would be unwise to skip offering email support when more than half of customers prefer it over social media. Email support provides a vital bridge to connect with customers, especially if you’re a DTC business that can't engage with your shoppers in person.
Email can illustrate solutions for customers with embedded links, images, and attachments — something instant channels like social media DMs and SMS would handle with more difficulty.
For example, look below at Dr. Squatch’s eyecatching promotional email. Their use of multiple high-quality images, call-to-action buttons, social links, and logos proves how email can accommodate the most elaborate messages.
If you have a digital footprint, email is almost always a requirement. You need it when creating a new account or when contacting people. It’s even accessible on all devices. Email’s prevalence means customers will expect online stores to offer email support at the very least.
The average first response time for email is 7 hours and 34 minutes. While most people tolerate how slow email is, it still doesn’t make for the best customer service experience. Urgent customer questions about product defects or bank account issues require rapid responses that other channels are better suited for.
Email allows for more creative liberty than other messaging channels but also has downsides. Since customers are free to format their own subject lines and messages, the responsibility of sorting through your inbox is on your agents.
The problem here isn’t just about maintaining a clean workspace but ensuring urgent messages like angry customer emails aren’t overlooked due to a messy inbox.
Support teams often feel their inbox is an obstacle course rife with concerned customers and a flood of recurring questions. Luckily, there’s a solution: use a customer service helpdesk that can consolidate email and other support tickets to keep your inbox and support team at bay.
Here’s how to effectively use email as a support channel with a helpdesk like Gorgias.
Why? To maintain organization 🗂️ and increase service quality ✨
Plainly leaving your email address on your contact page can be intimidating for customers. What should they put in the subject line? Will they actually get a reply back? Since this contact method has practically no guidelines, you’ll want to set parameters to make reaching out more approachable.
How? Do away with a raw email link and use a contact form. Contact forms provide structure to emails. Thanks to step-by-step guidance through drop-down menus and required fields, you can sort emails even before they reach you.
💡 Tip: We recommend that merchants don't direct customers to an email address for support. Instead, use a contact form to intake email support. Contact forms are superior because messages get structural data that helps customer service agents categorize and prioritize incoming tickets.
Don’t forget that you can start an interaction via email and move to a different channel. This tactic isn't new — it's known as omnichannel communication. After all, 46% of customers expect a response time of 4 hours or less, and if switching support channels is the key to providing faster service, then go for it.
How? Let’s say a panicked customer wants to reverse duplicate charges on their credit card ASAP. This interaction could take multiple back and forths spanning several business days. Instead, you can reap the benefits of voice support, SMS or WhatsApp by directing them to your phone number.
“Being able to organize and divert tickets internally, having a good FAQ, making sure that you're actually solving the problems instead of putting band-aids on them, all goes into [reducing] resolution time.” —Zoe Kahn, Manager of CX & Retention at Chomps
Why? To maintain organization 🗂️ and increase customer retention 🤝
A common customer service mistake is treating tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis. This can lead to more unhappy customers because some tickets are less urgent than others. This is where prioritization can be effective.
How? First, categorize incoming tickets with Gorgias Rules and Tags. Do this by determining the conditions for which tickets should be tagged with an “Urgent” tag. For example, emails containing the word “cancel” will be tagged “Urgent.” Now your most high-value tickets will be solved and your loyal customers won’t need to worry.
How to prioritize unsatisfied customers: Set up a Rule to identify and auto-tag customer complaints as Urgent so you can turn their day around with exceptional customer service.
Why? To increase service quality ✨ and enforce brand voice 🗣️
Being an advocate for personalized customer service doesn’t mean automation needs to be off-limits. Automation can and should be your best friend.
Automating customer service reduces response times and standardizes service quality. Automation can also capture data from customer interactions, letting support teams make data-driven improvements to their operations.
How? Use Macros (pre-written sample emails) to immediately answer questions about common topics, such as shipping information, return policies, and product-specific questions. Macros are a convenient way to compose professional messages, like customer apology emails, while allowing agents to add a personal touch.
Why? To increase customer satisfaction 👍 and service quality ✨
The biggest challenge about sending emails as a business is striking a balance between valuable and bothersome. It’s not only about crafting attractive promotional emails but making even the most mundane “Your order has shipped!” emails pop with purpose.
How? Integrate your ecommerce platform of choice, whether it’s Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento (Adobe Commerce), with Gorgias. You can view customer information from your chosen platform in the Customer Sidebar and extract the data to automatically populate emails.
Why? To increase customer satisfaction score 👍 and reduce ticket volume 🔻
How? Create a Help Center with linkable articles that can be inserted into customer support emails. This is especially useful for new customers who may want to ask several frequently asked questions. A Help Center effectively acts as technical support, while freeing up agents to deal with more unique tickets.
A successful customer support program should maximize self-service options to minimize manual effort.
How well are you serving your customers through email? The answer lies in measuring how quickly you accomplish support tasks like opening and closing a ticket. But it's not only about speed. Tracking metrics is invaluable for troubleshooting gaps in your customer service operations.
Here are three metrics that can shed a light on how well your customer support team is using email.
Average first response time is the average time it takes for your customer service team to send the first response to a customer after receiving a request.
🕒 Industry average: 18 hours (Timetoreply)
🟢 Time to aim for: Under 4 hours
🔻 What slows it down: Inadequate staffing, lack of automation, and poor prioritization
➕ How to improve it: Use automation like Rules, Tags, Macros, and more self-service options
Average resolution time refers to the average amount of time it takes to resolve or address a specific issue or request, typically measured in hours or days.
🕒 Industry average: 18.1 hours (Gorgias)
🟢 Time to aim for: Same day
🔻 What slows it down: Inefficient process, disorganized inbox, and complex issues
➕ How to improve it: Reroute tickets to faster channels like voice, and build self-service options like a Help Center
First contact resolution rate or FCR rate measures the rate of resolving a customer inquiry within the first interaction. An excellent FCR rate indicates that your support team is well-trained to be able to solve issues efficiently.
🕒 Industry standard: 70% (Fullview)
🟢 Rate to aim for: 78% (Qualtrics)
🔻 What slows it down: Complex issues and lack of customer service skills training
➕ How to improve it: Add more self-service options, ensure agents are given complete information on product/service knowledge and resolution techniques
[Callout] How to calculate FCR: Total number of requests resolved with one interaction in a single time period / the total number of requests in the same time period
Email is stronger when combined with other channels — no one knows this better than multitasking expert Gorgias.
As a powerful helpdesk tool, Gorgias offers omnichannel support and powerful automation features like Macros and Rules that make managing email effortless. You can even supercharge Gorgias with integrations to ecommerce apps like Shopify, Yotpo, and Shipbob to keep you focused on delivering support without distractions.
Ready to bring in a crowd of happy customers? Book a demo now.