Brands' Choice: Respond To Emails, Or Pay To Recruit New Customers

When it comes to email, there is a very clear disconnect emerging between marketing and customer services, according to the latest research from customer communications provider, Eptica.

It conducted research to test what it was seeing in the market and the feedback proved its hunch correct. Marketers are sold on email for reaching out to customers but when it comes to servicing their enquiries, their attention has shifted to the trendier channel of social media, regardless of whether or not that is where customers want to interact with a brand.

According to Eptica’s figures, that means that as few as 38% of its enquiries to tech brands were answered successfully over email, compared to an average of 48% over social media. That was the worst-case scenario and the researchers were interested to see that in a fiercely competitive industry, insurance, successful email replies leaped to 80% of enquiries.

“We suspected that brands were still using email to reach out to customers as they always have done,” says the company’s co-founder, Olivier Njamfa. “However, we’d noticed that marketers were finding social media very trendy and were focussing on that, so there was a disconnect between marketing and customer services. Digital marketers think that the world revolves around social — and that might be the case for Millennials — but they’ve got to remember that for anyone, say, in their 30s or over, email is often the preferred channel.”

Multichannel Dilemma
For Njamfa, the fallout is likely to be that people who email a query will get fed up of waiting for a reply and decide to become a customer of a brand that is more reactive.

“It’s tricky for brands because everything used to be about email and voice but now they’ve got to cover social, too, and it’s tough,” he says. “I’d suggest that brands have got to ensure that customers-services staff are trained to use email and give it their attention because people get fed up and will just become a customer elsewhere. Brands have got ask themselves a very simple question if they are struggling to find the budget to deal properly with people over email. How much does it cost me to keep an existing customer happy and how much does it cost for me to acquire a new one? It’s always cheaper to retain than recruit, so it’s a pretty easy question to answer.”

Losing Customers
It is this potential loss of customers that Eptica’s researchers believe is behind a huge disparity between email performance. The lowest rate of  successfully answering emails — just 38% — came in the tech industry, while the highest rate of 80% was found in the insurance sector.

“It all comes down to competition,” says Njamfa. “Insurance is a tough market where companies know people are making quick decision and if they don’t get back to them it is very easy for them to switch brands. It’s not quite as bad in tech because people are making decisions over a longer purchase cycle. However, there’s a very clear lesson there. If you want to hang on to customers, you have to deal with them over email if that’s the channel they’ve chosen.”

The Eptica co-founder believes that many brands may not be aware of the damage they do when they do not respond to customer emails properly in a timely manner. In his experience, far too many marketing managers have a silo mentality where customers emailing a question are seen as customer service rather than an issue for marketing. Given the higher cost of recruiting new customers compared to keep existing ones happy, this is a big mistake, he cautions.


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