In customer experience management, some channels have more durability than others. This is the case with email, which is currently undergoing a re-calibration as a contact channel in the eyes of both consumers and enterprises. Once seen to be the channel of the future, email has now become one of multiple digital tools, and in the eyes of many consumers, it is no longer the preferred non-voice manner to interact. The key for outsourcers and captive operators alike is to determine the extent to which email volumes are likely to change, and adapt digital platforms accordingly.
Email is undoubtedly a tried and tested digital channel. Since its mass-market adoption in the mid- 1990s, driven by university students and rudimentary dial-up interfaces, this medium has taken on a number of different faces and spawned one of the most successful films of 1998. In the early part of this century, the pervasiveness of email in both professional interactions and personal ones was undeniable, developing a culture of digital interface between end-users and enterprises. However, in recent times, the allure of this platform has eroded in the eyes of both businesses and consumers, making its management more of a challenge in the customer experience world.
In the recently-published 2019 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, respondents indicated that email is omnipresent in contact centers across major demand markets, with nearly 100% penetration as a channel. And, while this proportion speaks to the legacy of email as a communications medium, it only tells part of the story. In fact, roughly half of respondents already deploying email expected that there would be no growth in this channel whatsoever over the coming year. Contrast this with emerging non-voice channels such as web-chat and chat-bots, both of which are anticipated to grow rapidly as a proportion of workstations over the same period, and the prospects for electronic mail are grim.
Much of this owes to the fact that email is unable to satisfy consumers’ need for instant gratification, which has become part of the modern customer experience. Gone are the days in which end-users are willing to write long messages and wait up to 48 hours for a response to a query, especially not when the possibility of interacting with an agent or robot on a web-chat are instant alternatives. Another reason that is becoming more discussed is the growing distaste for email as a communications medium. With email overload becoming more of an issue in all major demand markets, there is a definite pushback to engage using this channel when so many are having trouble managing already-overwhelmed inboxes.
There are a number of important considerations for outsourcers when it comes to managing email channels. First and foremost, email is not going away. Like voice, there will always be a need to support email in some form. That said, studying the trends within individual verticals is very important, as some sectors — such as utilities, insurance, and healthcare — may be more conducive to email interactions, which require longer, more detailed messaging. Equally, the functions being supported by email are also a consideration, and outsourcers have to distinguish the extent to which this channel can support end-users based on their requirements. But the key is to recognize this paradigm channel shift and plan for it, in order to optimize operational efficiencies and ensure alignment with end-user communication preferences.