Is email ‘old technology’ as a tool for supporting and communicating with your clients?
Yes. It is.
In Part 1 of this series, we explored some reasons why email just doesn’t work well for client support. In this final instalment, let’s look at the new breed of software applications that have, in my view, hit the sweet spot in terms of providing greater transparency and control and, ultimately, better client service levels.
You have probably encountered a help desk or ticketing system run by a software company. Platforms like Zendesk, Desk (formerly called Assist.ly before being acquired by Salesforce.com), UserVoice, GetSatisfaction and Tender are all in this help desk category.
These are efficient and address a number of the weaknesses of traditional email such as transparency, leakage, status of queries, statistics and real-time collaboration.
However, for an accounting or bookkeeping firm (or the typical small or medium sized business) they are a little like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They are over-the-top for what most firms need – and worse – they can feel a little impersonal to end-users.
The appearance of the automatic “We have received your query and your ticket ID number is …” emails that these platforms send to customers or clients, all have that formal, corporate feel.
You probably don’t want that for your business. You are likely to pride yourself on providing a high level of personal service and that’s also part of your brand personality and the way you operate as a smaller firm.
Another aspect to consider is behavioural: You are unlikely to be able to change the behaviour of your clients regarding their habit of sending you emails. You could tell your clients to “submit a ticket” on your website, but they will just email you anyway. We’ve seen this firsthand.
So what is the solution?
Evolving recently is a new category of Help Desk Platform that has three characteristics:
- Transparent to users
- No need for clients to change their behaviour.
Your clients will still simply email you as usual, however – and this is where the magic happens – within your firm you have a system for centrally receiving, managing and replying to emails across the firm.
No more messages hidden away in “inbox silos”. No more embarrassment where one person emails a client about a matter to which another team member had already replied. No more emails falling through the cracks.
And your clients – as far as what they see in their email inbox – will just feel like they are having a normal email exchange with your firm. No impersonal ticket numbers or “please put your replies above this line” in the emails they receive from you.
The bottom line for your firm is more control and better service to your clients.
So what are some of these apps? I highly recommend you check out:
Each takes a slightly different approach.
Help Scout and SupportBee are (at the time of writing) totally email-centric. Their rationale is that 99.9 percent of your client queries are going to come in via email, not social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
However, depending on your types of clients, monitoring social media and having direct messages and mentions of your firm also managed in a centralised support management system might be just what you’re after.
In that case, Apoio is the way to go.
Another option for achieving the ‘unified inbox’ effect across the firm as well as the concept of support ticketing is AffinityLive.
AffinityLive is a mind-blowingly great project management and time and billing platform for professional services firms. We use it at Practice Paradox for managing the projects and tracking time on the marketing services we deliver.
Their AffinityLive Sync feature (which is one of dozens of features in the platform) automatically files and displays emails in what they call the Activity Stream and also under each contact. This allows you to see email exchanges between a client and other team members with the bonus that no manual filing of emails is required. It all just happens automatically in the background.
This Techcrunch article explains more about that feature.
The Requests function in AffinityLive acts as a help desk ticketing platform and allows you to centrally manage requests that come in from clients via email. Team members then convert a request into an issue if you want to track time against it for billing or retainer servicing records.
Whichever way your firm goes, my recommendation to you – if you want to be at the forefront of providing great service to clients based on having up-to-date systems – is to ditch the traditional use of email and use one of the apps listed above.
So, what are your thoughts? Are you sticking with email? Or are you willing to innovate and step into the new frontier of user-transparent help desk platforms?
Share your thoughts in the Comments area below.
Image credit: Mi9.com