Optimize Email Support: Filters, Macros, & Automations

Email support is often the front line of customer service for online businesses. Use these simple tricks to maintain efficient, high quality customer service.

Unlike your creative work or regular marketing efforts, customer service is an element of your business that scales in parallel to your customer growth, whereas the other two can be scaled up when wanted. In other words, if your rate of requests to customer count is roughly 20% each month (200 customer service interactions for 1000 subscribers, for example), it follows that you need to plan to accommodate for a growing number of requests when growing your total number of customers (the same math means 2,000 interactions for 10,000 subscribers).

For the early subscription business, this can pose a serious headache and eat up a lot of your time, especially for your email support channel. Customer service is one of the more tedious duties for your business, as it isn’t difficult as much as it is consistent, repetitive, and potentially emotionally taxing for employees (considering customer service fatigue, for example). Luckily, there are a few best practices your can employ to maintain efficiency and standardization across your team, resulting in faster but continuously high quality work over email.

A Premise: A Smart Customer Service Platform

Before we jump into the specific strategies for optimizing email support, you’ll first want to research and select a customer service platform provider. That is, rather than working through a simple email client (like Gmail), you’ll want to pull your email requests into an intelligent, third party system. A few examples are Zendesk, osTicket, Zoho, or FreshDesk. These provide easy to use functionalities, such as filters/views (ways to sort emails), macros (prompts agents can use for specific topics), and automations (rules defined by you to automate replies/follow ups). The low-cost of these services makes them a no-brainer for your business, even at the most early stage. It’s highly recommended you choose one immediately.

Strategy 1: Prioritizing with Filters & Views

The first strategy to optimize email support is by leveraging your ability to automatically sort and organize incoming requests. This is your first line of defense to avoid wasting time and energy dealing with emails – rather than working through varying requests one after another, you can build specific views for specific types of type of emails (also called tickets). This allows you focus on answering one type of question at a time, increasing efficiency by keeping your mind focused on one type of question at a time.

You create views by defining specific “conditions” found in emails, such as: ticket creation time, ticket description and key words, and ticket status (new, open, pending, closed). For example, consider filtering views into categories such as:

  • Cancellation/Refund Requests: Filter by keywords, such as “cancel” or “cancellation” or “refund”
  • High Priority Tickets: Filter by ticket creation time “over 24 hours”
  • Shipping/Address Requests: Filter by keywords, such as “address” or “address change” or “shipping”
  • Blogger/Media Requests:  Filter by keywords, such as “review” or “blog” or “free box”
  • Pending Tickets: Filter by status “pending” (this is helpful if you have an ongoing customer issue or need to revisit the ticket later)

These are just some of the basic filter ideas you can use for your email support. When building your own, consider the specific needs of your business. For example, if you offer multiple types of dietary options, consider creating views for those specific key words, such as Gluten free, vegan, or paleo.

Strategy 2: Macros & Prompts

With your emails neatly organized, now’s the time to considering using macros and prompts. In the most rudimentary sense form, these are just replies that you ‘copy and paste’ into each email. However, with a smart customer service platform, you’re able to build in automatic customizations in specific macros. How? Many services offer a set of “placeholders” you can define within a macro. These placeholders automatically pull in specific pieces of data from the email, such as email requester name, email address, time, and email title. The specific formatting for your placeholders depending on the customer service platform you choose. Here’s a rough example for an address change request, with example placeholders in brackets:

Hi [Email Requester First Name],

Thank you for reaching out to us today. I’ve got your address updated on your account, and if there’s anything else I can do, please let me know. For your records, this ticket number is [Ticket Number].

Signature

In addition to including basic placeholders with your macros, you can also add other pieces of data to your tickets using macros, such as tags. “Tags” are snipets of information you can use to sort your tickets, like phrases like “cancellation” or “address change.” These can also feed into data systems that integrate with your customer service platform (like Good Data’s integration with Zendesk). By using tags with your data partner, you can bring more light to your analytics used in customer service reporting. Look out for our upcoming guide on customer service analytics.

Strategy 3: Triggers & Automations

Triggers are actions that are applied when a ticket is created or updated, without you or your agents having actually perform the action themselves. These are useful for immediately providing support for customers and informing that that their request has been received. These are highly customizable, and most customer service platforms have these built standardly. Here are a few examples:

  • Notifying Customer of Received Request: Automatically emails the customer back, and includes a basic prompt explaining to the customer the email has been received and sets expectations on response time (like 24 hours)
  • Notifying Customer of Updated Comment: Automatically emails the customers when an agent updates a ticket
  • Notifying Agent of Updated Ticket: Automatically informs agent that a customer has replied

Automations are actions that are taken some time after a ticket has been updated (not created). These can involve changing the “status” of the ticket, or even creating an automatic follow up at a later period. Here are  few examples:

  • Closing a Ticket: After an agent has marked a ticket as solved, the ticket automatically closes after 5 days
  • Following Up with Press: After you’ve confirmed a review, the system automatically emails the press contact after 30 days for a follow up
  • Request Customer Satisfaction: After your ticket has been marked as closed, the system automatically emails the customer requesting them report their satisfaction

Optimize Support For Efficient, High Quality Customer Service

When you optimize email support, you provide a solid foundation for your agents to provide consistently great customer service for all customers. There’s no need to continue to write the same emails over and over again, and you’re able to tackle topics one by one, not all at once. The time saving allows you to keep your support team small, saving you money and avoiding costly, time consuming training for new employees.

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

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