E-commerce Link: Inbound E-mail
These are one-to-one e-mail communications, and each of these replies needs to be handled manually. Unfortunately, the report card for prompt and efficient handling of such customer e-mails has never been good, and it’s not getting better. An April 2007 e-mail customer service survey conducted by Hornstein Associates found half of all customer e-mail goes unanswered, and only 33 percent of companies that respond to customer e-mail do so within 24 hours. This is a direct result of an inadequate inbound e-mail response program.
Auto-responder messages. Most of these messages note that an individual is out of the office and give a date of return. But there are nuggets of gold in some of these e-mails. Some auto-responder messages explain that the individual is no longer with the company and include his or her new e-mail contact information. Most inbound e-mail filters have rules in place that fail to catch the e-mail-change-of-address situation. This is a missed opportunity.
Challenge responses. Some businesses and Internet service providers allow their users to establish settings so that no mail comes into their inboxes unless the senders are listed in the recipients’ address books. If mail does not meet this criterion, an automatic challenge goes out to the sender. The challenge usually contains a relatively easy task to complete—such as re-entering a code that displays on the screen—and once the sender submits the response, the mail goes through.
It’s a simple process. All challenges requiring a response are delivered to an administrative inbox. However, they must be handled within a few days or the responses will be ignored.
Challenge responses are easy to deal with—the only catch is that they require manual intervention. If you are using a third-party e-mail service provider, ask if it is handling this task on your behalf. If not, designate this responsibility to someone in your company.