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5 Reasons Why You Should Stick with Email Support

By focusing on providing excellent email support, you ensure that you create stable experiences for all of your users across the board.

Everyone likes to try new things, right? We try to stay on the cusp of fashion. We look into Teslas and AI and smartwatches. We flock to new restaurants as they open. We try new fitness fads and diet crazes…

But there’s a reason that things like the little black dress, plain old chocolate chip cookies, and email exist and are still vastly popular: they work.

In a world of experimentation and trying new things, it’s important to have something steady that you can depend on. Email is the grounding factor in a shifting world of chatbots and video chat. While it can feel good to experiment, it’s important for your customers that you keep something steady and familiar. Just like most people can’t pull off a hugely power-clashing outfit, it’s not advisable to completely pare away the “old ways” of doing support.

Here are a few reasons why you should continue to keep our old friend email as your main method of providing support.

It’s reliable

62% of people prefer to reach out to customer service through email over any other channel—that’s over phone, chat or even social media. The main most commonly stated reason is that it’s reliable.

“There isn’t much to sending or receiving email and that’s sort of the point,” observed Aaron Straup Cope, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s Senior Engineer in Digital and Emerging Media. He went on to say “the next time someone tells you email is ‘dead,’ try to imagine the cost of investing in their solution or the cost of giving up all the flexibility that email affords.”

And it’s true—think about it. Despite the fact that many companies are building experiences and tooling around email, the very function and technology at its core have changed little since it’s introduction decades ago. Email has been many things to many people, but the tool itself has not changed.

Bells and whistles can be neat and helpful additions to your support functionality, but having something at the core that (for the most part) just works is priceless.

email supportIt’s easy to access

Email is used in our daily personal and professional lives and is readily available across all of our devices (43% of people say this is why they choose email when reaching out to support). You do not require one single specific device to make it work—so for people that don’t have a laptop or a mobile device, it’s no problem.

There are over 2.6 billion email users in the world today who collectively own more than 4.3 billion email accounts. That is a lot of emails—especially considering that there are only around 2.5 billion people worldwide that have a mobile phone, and a majority of that metric are younger generations.

Many of us with an older, less tech-savvy relative know how much easier it is to explain email than almost any other form of technological communication: email is straightforward and difficult to break. Most people are able to get started with minimal (or no) changes to their default email settings, and there is often nothing that people need to download in order to get it set up and running.

I have never had to hop on the phone with my father to explain to him how to send an email, but I have a phone call with him at least once a week to figure out his various streaming services. Email is widespread enough that anyone with access to the internet can use it with little to no trouble.

email supportIt’s easily shared

It’s true—people like quick support. It’s why channels like live chat and phone are so popular. However, live chat and phone are also the two support channels that are most prone to redirects and having the customer repeat their question all over again.

Have you ever been there? It’s frustrating! When you’re having trouble with a product, you shouldn’t have to explain your problem more than once. Luckily, email helps you with this.

With email, and to a lesser degree chat, customer support agents can see all prior conversations with a customer and quickly and easily digest them. This helps to provide context and color to the issue and means that they have to ask the customer fewer questions. Less repetition for a customer makes for a much better experience.

Email is easy to escalate and add notes to. It also encourages collaboration in ways that live chat and phone do not. With a phone, it takes much more time to get a grasp on the nuances of a customer’s problem, especially if it is technical in nature. With live chat, because quick responses are expected, there isn’t a lot of time for collaboration on an issue that the agent might need help with.

Email is the one channel that is designed to be slightly slower and thus allows for better-shared context, note-taking, and collaboration. It’s great for all types of conversations, but especially technical or nuanced ones.

email supportIt’s less frustrating

Email is, inherently, much more convenient than any of the other forms of support. While it might not be as quick as chat or phone, the entire support interaction is on the customer’s terms. The customer can’t be put on an awkward, indeterminately long hold. They can pause and pick up the conversation when it works for them, rather than being on the agent’s timeline over the phone or chat. In fact, 40% of people say this is why they choose email over other avenues when reaching out for support.

Email gives your customers the feeling of control over the conversation—it lets them communicate on their terms, during times that make the most sense for them. They may have to wait longer for a response, but they are able to keep a handle on the timeline in a way that they wouldn’t be able to if on the phone or on live chat. If they need to shift their attention to something else, they can’t put a pause on a phone conversation, or tell the live chat window they’ll be right back.

email supportIt’s more scalable

Email is one of the most scalable forms of support. Phone and chat support has the benefit of being quick, but that quickness requires focus. If a support agent is on the phone, it is unlikely that they will be able to do anything else other than being on the phone. The same goes for live chat.

Generally speaking, 4-5 chats at a time is manageable only with heavy use of canned or saved replies. In the event that you are trying to provide quality, customized support, agents should only be handling 1-2 chats at a time. The average wait time for a chat response is anywhere from two to ten minutes, and then the average handle time is about seven minutes. So, that’s about 20 minutes for 1-2 issues to be resolved.

You can continue to hire more and more people to staff your chat and phone support, but nothing is going to be as scalable or straightforward as email.

Conclusion

This is not to say that you should only have email support as an offering for your customers. It’s good to experiment and try new things every once in a while—you may even find a new fan-favorite.

But email is one of the best ways to provide stable, easy-to-use, on-their-terms support to the vast majority of people that will want to reach out to you. By focusing on providing excellent email support, you ensure that you create stable experiences for all of your users across the board, whether they’re contacting you from their desktop computer, iPhone or tablet.


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Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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