Social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and even Facebook are pretty powerful weapons in your online arsenal but they haven’t got anything on the old standby email. This post isn’t even about email marketing and sending bulk emails to lists of folks. Instead, it’s a story about how we’ve used email to better manage a business relationship and provide customer service that is orders of magnitude better than it used to be.
The old way
Over at ColorMetrix we’ve been working on a relatively large development project for several years now. Up until about six months ago, our partner in this project sent business-related emails to me and tech support/development issues to my business partner. Normally we were both cc’d on the emails that were not directed to us.
It took some attention and concentration to make sure you read and responded to the right emails without missing any. We missed some and, in the end, it turned out we missed more than a few. So you might be wondering how I view email as such a powerful tool if it was failing us in providing great customer service.
The new way
We added a couple team members and some technology tools this year that turned email into a powerful weapon in our online communications arsenal. We started with Basecamp from 37signals for project management. This replaced a series of Google Docs documents and spreadsheets. There are many advantages Basecamp has over Google Docs for project management, but one of the biggest is email notifications. Now those involved in the project receive automated notifications via email when an item they are responsible for needs attention.
Also, responding to an automated email from Basecamp adds your response to a conversation thread that anyone can see by logging in to the project. No more searching your email archives to see how the whole conversation got started. Just log in and read backwards. While this is all wonderful and illustrates the power of email communication, it’s not the best piece of the puzzle.
The secret email address
We setup a dedicated email address for this client/project. Now, there is no decision as to who to send an email. Sure some of the high level business-related questions still come to me but nothing even vaguely technical. That all goes to the project email address which can be monitored by anyone. We then have a system of entering those email requests into Basecamp so we can track them.
Here’s the real key. If our client puts the word “urgent” in the subject line of one of those emails, my phone goes off like the bat phone threatening to bounce off the desk and on to the floor. Okay, it’s not quite that nuts but our client knows that if I’m awake and near my phone, I will know they are in trouble. It’s happened exactly twice in six months.
Those two times are what separate average customer service from something better than average. While I never see a project-related email I do know if one says urgent, it’s a serious issue and I probably need to get involved. Oddly, on one of the two occasions the person monitoring the account was out of pocket for several hours. I knew this and dropped everything I was doing, read the message, called the customer and got us going on a solution. Using email, we addressed an urgent issue in under 10 minutes.
It’s never really about the tools but instead how you choose to use them.
Topics for tonight’s #shehechat
Tonight, we return our Twitter chat (follow the hashtag #shehechat) to its normal time slot of 8 p.m. CST. We hope you can join us. Here are tonight’s topics:
1. Do you consider email one of your social media tools?
2. What is the value of Twitter chats for a business?
3. How does creating a livestream video of your service or product benefit your brand?
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