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Email in contact centres: 5 reasons to give it a second chance

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Colin Hay at Puzzel assesses the latest research and believes it’s time to raise the bar for humble emails…

Despite being the first of the non-voice multimedia channels, email was initially doomed to failure when it was introduced well over 10 years ago.

With response times stretching into many days, if not weeks, appalling levels of service sent customers rushing back to the phone. It took many years, much investment and the coaxing of customers, along with the demise of the letter and fax, for email to re-emerge as being credible for customer service.

The UK Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide 2017-18 (DMG) reveals some interesting developments in the often rocky road of email. The Digital Channels chapter reveals how humble email is gaining renewed customer confidence and showing signs of a definite revival. Let’s take a closer look:

• On average, 20.5% of all inbound interactions are now done by email
• In terms of service levels – there have been vast improvements with 66% of email enquiries being answered on the same working day whilst the number of those taking more than one day to be answered has decreased significantly to 28%
• 45% of respondents to the DMG survey already have an email management system to support customer service interactions.

Multi-channel is the way to go

The research also shows that contact centres which have adopted a blended environment, supported by a universal queue system to handle enquiries regardless of channel, can proudly claim that twice as many emails are successfully handled within one hour. This is probably because as contact centres move towards customer engagement centres, the ability to handle all channels through one integrated solution allows for the central management of customer email enquiries. In turn this speeds up response times.

In fact, it seems that the success of email transactions relies on interacting with other channels. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that fewer than 10% of emails can be answered without recourse to alternative channels, while 10% claimed that more than half of all emails needed supplementary channel assistance. The fact that emails typically require supplementary channel assistance should come as no surprise. However, the advent of cloud-based technology makes it possible to deliver a seamless multi-channel customer experience as integration with other databases, CRM and media archive solutions provides the ability to respond to enquiries regardless of channel, including email.

Five reasons to give email a second chance

Technical innovations have come a long way in ten years providing endless possibilities and a wealth of benefits that have contributed to the rising status of email as a sophisticated communications medium in the contact centre. Here are just a few:

1) No queue time – email is an immediate action, you just press and send.
2) Cost – email is still less expensive than voice.
3) Intelligent routing – means email queries are directed to the agent with the appropriate skills to respond and urgent cases are passed to the next available agent.
4) Time savings and increased customer satisfaction all in one – important announcements can be made by email and distributed simultaneously to multiple parties yet it is simple to create and change, signatures to personalise emails and boost customer loyalty.
5) Superior reporting capabilities – give managers the hard evidence they need to make meaningful service improvements.

A time and place for voice

This is all very good news for email but there will always be a place for traditional voice. Take sectors with complex cases such as healthcare, social work, insurance and law. Enquiries from this type of organisation often require sensitive handling that only a voice conversation can achieve. However, email is perfect for complaint handling where a reliable audit trail is required. This is corroborated by DMG’s research which shows complaints account for 14% of email traffic whereas less than 10% of voice calls involve handling complaints. The latest solutions treat cases not individuals using unique identifier technology. This means sophisticated search, respond and reporting capabilities support efficient case management by triggering consistent, consolidated responses to customers.

Renewed confidence in email is reflected in many of today’s organisations who use it as part of their daily customer service activities. Take Puzzel’s customer, dedicated facilities management help desk provider Fm24. Since deploying cloud-based contact centre technology, Fm24 has noticed a rapid increase in email traffic, currently 30% more than the company’s annual call statistics – proof that it’s time to give email a second chance and take advantage of its elevated status in the contact centre.

Copies of the full UK Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide 2017-18 can be downloaded from the Puzzel website at Puzzel

Contact centre speed to answer increases by 27%

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Analyst ContactBabel has revealed that the Average Speed to Answer for contact centres has increased by 27%, from 28.4 seconds to 36.1 seconds.

The findings are part of the fourth edition of The UK Contact Centre HR & Operational Benchmarking Report 2014/15, a study of 215 contact centre operations examining salaries, attrition, recruitment, absence, training operational performance, budgets and growth, with forecasts to 2017.

The report also found that new agent salaries have risen on average to £16,027.

Speaking with Call Centre Helper, the author of the report, Steve Morrell, explained how the growth in email and web chat was having a direct impact with the findings.

“The continued strong growth in both email and webchat, as well as mobile and web-based self-service, means that the remaining agent-customer voice conversation is now on average longer and more complex, requiring different skills and capabilities from agents, which current systems and processes may not yet support,”

“Furthermore, the connected increase in call handling times – now almost five minutes for a service call, and six and a half minutes for a sales call – supports the finding that the voice queue is often under pressure.”

“Twice as many contact centres are planning to increase headcount in 2015 as are expecting a decrease, which suggests that the movement towards self-service has not yet taken the pressure off the voice channel,” he continued. “In part, this will be due to the disconnect across channels found in most businesses, where the customer may have to engage multiple channels repeatedly in order to get a resolution to their query – a case of ‘multichannel’ rather than ‘omnichannel’ – where the final destination for many is still a live voice call.”




Are industry professionals missing out on key cloud opportunities?

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While the majority of contact centres are using cloud technology to some extent, adoption for many is ‘relatively superficial’, according to recent conducted by Aspect Software.

Surveying 100 UK-based senior contact centre professionals, data indicates that even though the industry is ‘moving in the right direction’, Aspect believes the benefits of the delivery model for agent productivity and customer engagement will only be unlocked when contact centres ‘migrate more of their operations to the cloud’.

Research found that 78 per cent are currently using cloud to some extent, with the channel most likely to have been migrated being email in 60 per cent of cases.  However, adoption of cloud technology in other channels remains low – 27 per cent manage their mobile apps in the cloud; 23 per cent have migrated SMS to cloud; 13 per cent have deployed cloud-based web chat.

Stephen Ball, SVP Europe and Africa at Aspect commented: “It’s clear that cloud is gaining ground in contact centres and that contact centre operators are increasingly comfortable with cloud delivery models, which is very positive. But at the moment many have only migrated a handful of applications and channels – what you might call the low-hanging fruit – and that doesn’t seem likely to change much over the next year. Even partial cloud adoptions can bring about positive changes within your organisation, but we’ve seen that the really interesting things only start to happen when bigger portions of the IT estate have been migrated.”

Analysts predict that this is unlikely to change over the next 12 months, as just 27 per cent of respondents claimed they will integrate new cloud-based solutions into their contact centres in 2017.

Forum Insight: Business-proof your company and personal social media…

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Of course, garnering a substantial social media following is important to all industry professionals and companies as a whole; however, a select few are still not implementing the basics to optimising their social presence. More than likely, your profiles will be the first thing new users look at to find out more information, and often dictate how your business, and you as an individual, appear in search results. 

Here, we breakdown the essential elements to maximise the potential of your social accounts, and why this is important for generating new business and creating a lasting impression…


  1. clear job title: How many times have you searched for someone’s profile, only to find the individual considers themselves to be a sales manager, commercial development director, project coordinator, and all of the above? May sound simple, but you’ll be surprised by the number of job titles people list as their current employment; therefore, to make life easier for all parties involved, just stick to one! Short, concise descriptions of your role within a company instead of laying out extensive, essay-style paragraphs will also help users and clients to stay engaged.
  2. Keep updating your accounts: Posting daily, or even multiple times a day, is crucial to sustaining a loyal following as well as how others will perceive both your company and your role. Granted – it’s tough work keeping on top of an average of four social accounts, nevertheless, as multiple marketing industry reports suggest, consistent use of social media can boost a company’s site SEO and allows instant communication with your clients. To share out the workload, why not create a weekly schedule where every member of your marketing team is responsible for a particular day of the week. 
  3. Select a professional image: I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but your choice of profile image for both a personal and business account greatly impacts a client’s perception of you; and, with my recent experience of following up with leads after a networking event, some are still choosing to ignore this basic component. Don’t just leave it as a generic grey box; and definitely don’t upload a picture of you and your friends on a night out along the Magaluf strip – for a business, a logo image will allow clients to instantly find you among the other accounts with a similar name. For personal, stick with a simple yet professional, smiley and welcoming headshot.  
  4. Include ALL direct contact information: Don’t forget to include information on how people can get in touch with you. Include your preferred contact methods, such as phone, Skype, email, website,  The inclusion of both a professional and personal blog presents itself as a way of existing and potential clients to learn more about you. 
  5. Recommendations: If a social platform provides the opportunity (particularly LinkedIn) it’s a good idea to take full advantage of their ‘Recommendations’ feature. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask a bunch of your loyal clients and even some colleagues to write short recommendation paragraphs for you – but expect to give a little guidance on what they need to write, and be open to doing the same for

Guest Blog, Gail Partridge: Holding memorable conversations with your customers…

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Delivering a first-class customer experience should be the number one priority for any brand – it really is that important. It affects perceptions and memories of a business, and encompasses everything a customer goes through with that company. The contact centre is an important part of this, often called into action when something with the customer experience has gone wrong. When this occurs, a customer issue should, of course, be resolved as effortlessly as possible, but the experience is improved if the conversation – whether over the telephone, via email, Live Chat or social media – is a memorable one.

This is arguably even truer over social media, where conversations can take place in public. In addition to addressing the issue at hand, the representative must be aware that others can see the conversation and can share it quickly if they so wish. So what’s the best way of delivering those memorable conversations?


While to an extent this depends on the technology a brand is using in its contact centre, I would say that context is hugely important for any customer interaction and quality of conversation. An employee should ideally know the customer’s name, what the issue is and whether there have been issues in the past. This saves a lot of leg work upfront and means the customer doesn’t have to repeat information they may have shared via another channel previously.

Body language

It isn’t just what you say that leads to a memorable conversation it’s how you say it. When speaking with a customer, employees must have the right mindset during the conversation – the key to really listen to the customer and to respond in a personal way to show they care and want to help

So the way you show up and even your body language and the way you sit can have an impact on the customer experience.  For example, if you were face to face with someone and slouching in your seat, would the customer think you are interested in what you have to say? Removing distractions and being fully present with every customer will give confidence and control which will all be reflected in the way you deal with the customer issue and your tone of voice will be one which shows that you really want to engage with the customer.

Be engaging

Although operational stats, e.g. average handling time, are important for monitoring efficiency and resourcing in a contact centre, this should not be down to an individual level as this pressure can stop the natural conversation and engaging with customers. To engage you have to be fully present and allow the natural flow of a curious conversation, where the customer is asked about not only what they problem is but also why it is important to them to have it fixed. Your people should draw out the other person, listen carefully to what they are saying and make the customer feel confident that their problem is in the right hands to be addressed. The more this can be done, the more positive experience the customer will have.

Taking genuine interest broader than the issue at hand can often prevent further issues occurring and the need to call back to have more problems resolved. If an employee can find some common ground in a natural, rather than scripted way, then that can only add to the engagement felt.

Signing-off in style

As the conversation draws to a close, it’s important to strike the right note as you finish – that will be the abiding memory. Some technology systems in a contact centre allow for a personalised follow-up – an email to enquire if everything was resolved to the customer’s satisfaction – others do not. But that shouldn’t stop an upbeat and positive end to the conversation.

Teach your staff how to do this

Providing smart and effective training to customer-facing people is a surprisingly overlooked element of customer interaction. This should include product or service information of course, and the ability to properly use whichever software and technologies are in play in that contact centre.

But it should also and always include tips and techniques on actually communicating with people. This can vary according to the channel – what works when speaking with someone might not be as effective via social media – but there are aspects that can be used whatever the channel.

As social media is a public forum, you should be clear about what an agent can and cannot say. This is especially so given that for most Millennials, social media is a way of life, and they use a tone in their personal accounts that would not necessarily be suited to a professional interaction.

Memorable and effortless conversations are a key part of delivering a good customer experience, something to bear in mind as the variety of communication channels broadens, from social media and beyond.


Gail Partridge is a consultant at PeopleTECH, a customer experience management consultancy that advises organisations on how to deliver the right customer experience via people, processes and technology. Gail has previously worked with brands such as Sky, Standard Life and British Airways, advising on all elements of call centre strategy.

Outsourced contact centre launches digital division…

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With a dedication to provide a ‘new type and range’ of customised and results-driven social management services to UK companies, the Southend-based contact centre, Ventrica, has announced the launch of Ventrica Digital, its sister company that will allow businesses to generate new business leads through monitoring and engagement.

Furthermore, businesses will also be able to take full advantage of additional benefits which includes: creating up-sell opportunities; effective crisis management; boost web traffic, conversions and sales; guaranteed quality control and response times; and enhancing retention and service levels across all channels.

Founder and managing director at Ventrica, Dino Forte, said: “There are plenty of digital agencies out there, but very few come from an award-winning customer services background or have the resources to provide a 24/7 service with the option of multi-lingual capabilities. With more and more businesses operating internationally, and more consumers wanting to buy online at any time of the day, it is now essential to offer expertise around the clock with response services across all popular media, whether via webchat, social, mobile, email or review moderation.”

He continued, “The Ventrica Digital model is perfect for those companies that don’t have the specialist expertise or resources in-house, but still want to take advantage of the huge returns of harnessing social media and digital, that if used intelligently, can have a direct and measurable return on investment in the shape of sales, enhanced service levels and customer retention.”

Find out more about Ventrica Digital here