Testing Customer Reps via Email
By SAM SCHECHNER
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Companies are encouraging customers with questions to hit the send button instead of picking up the phone -- and they may be starting to get their wish.
American companies received 4.5 billion customer-service emails requiring agent assistance last year, 45% more than the year before and more than double the 2002 figure, according to the Incoming Calls Management Institute, a customer-service training and consulting company in Annapolis, Md.
The stepped-up use of email by customers is being pushed by industries from insurance to banking to cosmetics. At the Group Health Cooperative, a managed-care organization in Seattle, customers have sent nearly twice as many messages so far this year compared with the first half of last year. The company processes almost 6,000 emails a week.
But over a quarter of the emails that consumers send to companies are ignored altogether, says the Customer Respect Group, a consulting company that sends out thousands of test messages each year. And while the rate of lost emails is dropping in most industries,%2