Bozeman, Mont.

Your customers need to be able to communicate with you—whether they have product-related questions, shipping questions or installation issues. Providing them with an easy-to-find e-mail link on your Web site is a good start. However, giving customers the means to send free-form customer service e-mails may actually slow down your ability to respond to their needs quickly and efficiently. “Free-form e-mails are very difficult to handle,” says Greg Gianforte, CEO of Bozeman, Mont.-based customer experience management solutions provider RightNow Technologies. “You don’t know how to route them; you don’t have any classification information, and there’s no opportunity to provide additional assistance before e-mails [are] submitted.” Instead,

In today’s competitive marketing environment, excellent customer service can make you stand head and shoulders above your competition. To take your customer service to the next level, Greg Gianforte, CEO of Bozeman, Mont.-based customer experience management solutions provider RightNow Technologies, suggests implementing the following best practices: 1. Make sure all your customer service channels—e-mail, live chat, Web self-service and telephone customer service—draw information from one unified content repository, so answers are consistent. 2. Follow up every e-mail customer service exchange with a brief—one- to three-question—customer satisfaction survey. According to Gianforte, this survey can be as simple as, “On a scale of one to five, were you

Share your tips and learn from fellow direct marketers as we cover the hottest issues and best practices in e-mail marketing. Question: What's on your list of best practices when it comes to optimizing customer and prospect opt-in to your e-mail marketing campaigns? Answers: One of the best ways to get a customer to opt-in to ongoing communication is to ask for permission after you've just either helped a customer solve a problem or provided some other sort of excellent service. Customer service agents who slip in a permission question at the end of an extended and successful interaction

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