Your call center is accustomed to handling phone calls. But, over the past few years, you observe that your e-mail volume has risen to a level of hundreds or even thousands of messages a day. These messages come from paying customers who aren't willing to wait days for agents to get back to them.
Yet, even though the number of e-mail messages from your customers is growing, and you know thatresponding to them is a high priority, you don't have a system in place for answering them.
Fortunately for you, there are plenty of e-mail routing software products available to help you respond to e-mail. From using an ACD, you know how to set up procedures for directing callers to agents who can help them with specific types of calls. You can likewise use e-mail routing software to distribute messages equitably among the agents who have the expertise to answer them.
If you use an IVR system, you know
how to offload some calls to a system that can respond to some of your customers' questions automatically. You can similarly reduce the number of e-mail messages that go to live agents by using auto-reply software to automatically answer e-mail messages that usually warrant the same responses all the time (e.g., your company's policy on returns) or that only require a database lookup (e.g., the cost of a bouquet of red roses).
And, as with phone calls, if you're still overwhelmed with the number of
e-mail messages you receive, you can hire a service bureau to answer them for you.
If we push the analogy between phone calls and e-mail further, you can imagine that it would be helpful to have a service - like the alternative of using Centrex instead of an on-site phone switch - to handle some or all of your e-mail.
Such an option does exist through companies that offer e-mail routing as a monthly service. One example of a hosted service is
eGain Hosted Network
In providing this service, eGain makes its software,
Email Management System (EMS) 2.0
, available to your call center over a secure network. Agents gain access to their e-mail messages through a Web browser.
As it sets up your e-mail routing service, eGain helps you quantify the average number of e-mail messages customers send your center each day, week or month. eGain works with you to identify the most frequent types of requests you receive by e-mail and assists you in
creating categories for messages.
The company then shows you how to assign agents to answer different types of messages and how to establish rules for directing messages to agents. For example, you can route e-mail messages to agents by customer, by time of day (if agents work on shifts) or based on keywords in the subject line or within the body of the message. Besides performing keyword matches, eGain's service uses artificial intelligence to identify the most likely categories for each message.
service can also make e-mail routing decisions based on looking up information you have about customers and, where necessary, by looking up which skills agents have. EMS 2.0, the software eGain provides through its service, integrates with customer data management software from
(San Mateo, CA),
(Mountain View, CA)
Action Request System 3.2
help desk software and
(San Jose, CA)
computer telephony software.
Hosted Network lets you retrieve a variety of reports from within a Web browser. If you prefer, eGain can e-mail reports to you on a regular basis. eGain's reports include data like total e-mail volumes, average response times for agents and maximum response times for agents.
The service also lets you perform on-the-fly administrative tasks, like making changes to routing rules, from a Web browser. (As with many systems that run over a network, only staff to whom you give administrative privileges are
allowed to alter routing rules.)
When you use eGain's service, you don't rely on only one server from eGain to furnish you with e-mail routing software. Frontier GlobalCenter and AboveNet Communications, two companies that offer Web hosting services, run eGain's software from servers located at their data centers. Since eGain's service has a choice of two networks over which it sends e-mail, it has alternate paths to route messages in case one of the networks goes down.
The cost of eGain Hosted
Network starts at $2,900 a month. You can receive free upgrades to the software as long as you use the hosted service. If you need more staff to answer e-mail messages, eGain refers you to service bureau
(San Francisco, CA), which, for an additional charge, responds to e-mail on your behalf.
You do need to have an e-mail server for sending and receiving messages to use eGain's e-mail routing service. The company does inform you, though, as soon as it finds out that your e-mail
server is down. When that happens, unfortunately, you have to bring up your e-mail server yourself.
But soon, it will be unnecessary for you to install your own e-mail server to do e-mail routing. eGain plans to offer a service for hosting e-mail servers, in addition to hosting the use of its e-mail routing software, within a few months.
(Foster City, CA)
FaceTime Message Exchange 2.0
is another example of a hosted service. Besides routing e-mail, it
also lets you route live text messages.
David Hsieh, FaceTime's vice president of marketing and a co-founder of the company, observes that some of FaceTime's clients, including Charles Schwab, employ dedicated, full-time agents to respond to e-mail and live text messages. He says such communication is prevalent in firms like brokerages that have upper-income customers.
Pricing for FaceTime Message Exchange includes a setup fee, which starts at $7,500, plus a starting cost of $1,500 per Web site.
The cost per agent is $250 and it reflects the number of concurrent reps who use the service each month.
FaceTime lets you create log-in IDs and passwords to give agents access to FaceTime Message Exchange. The company helps you set up a library of responses, which agents can refer to as templates for answering the most common e-mail requests, and it assists you in creating lists of auto-responses. The company also provides training for agents, which Hsieh says usually lasts about half a day.
use a Web browser to perform administration, like increasing or decreasing the number of agents who can receive access to e-mail or live text messages through FaceTime's service.
FaceTime provides on-line reports about e-mail and live text messages. These reports include an on-line wizard to help you create routing rules that categorize and send messages to agents based on keywords. The company also has programmers on staff to help you implement routing rules that collect information about customers
that exists outside of e-mail messages. With their help, you can, for example, incorporate other data sources, like records of a customer's past purchases, and use them to route e-mail messages to agents who are knowledgeable about the products the customer buys from you most often.