Greg Harrison is an avid traveler, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner and entrepreneur. As the co-founder of MailSlayer.com, his goal is to make the process of writing, organizing and sending emails more efficient, so you can spend more time doing the things you love.
I have read a lot of the articles about how to clean up and manage your inbox and they have all said to read the important messages, and get rid of the rest. But what happens when every email is important?
If you provide email customer support, you can’t just archive your customers’ email or you’ll likely forget about them and may lose them forever. Worse, that forgotten customer will go on to speak poorly about you to all of their friends, family and anyone who will listen making you lose out on potential revenue later. Answering every single one of your customers’ emails is of critical importance to your business, and to make things tougher, great customer service these days is built on the expectation that inquiries will be answered within a reasonable amount of time, the sooner, the better.
I have been in charge of customer experience for the last three startups I have worked with and they all have used Gmail as their customer support inbox (I’ve seen an increase in the use of Gmail as the platform for email support). So, how could a team of only two people reply to 150-300 customer inquiries within 24 hours only using Gmail? The following is a quick workflow we created to slay email customer support.
First off, you should dedicate one email address as your customer service email, for example firstname.lastname@example.org, and allow everyone that answers those types of emails access to that single account. This simplifies your workflow and helps you stay organized as your company grows.
To start, we want to know how many emails we need to tackle. To do this, I suggest archiving all emails that have been answered and that have no further actions or follow up left to do. The inbox should only be for unresolved emails, while archiving all fully resolved emails. I would also suggest going in to your Gmail settings and selecting “show 100 conversations per page” so you spend less time flipping through pages of emails.
Then we want to set up the “Send & Archive” plug-in in Google labs. This adds an additional button to all of your emails that lets you automatically archive emails once you click send.
Next, lets add an “Important” label and a “Follow Up” label.
You will also want to add an “Assigned to” label for each person who is managing the inbox, for example “Assigned to Greg.” At first it may be just you, or you and your co-founder but as you grow, you will want to ensure you are keeping track of who is sending what.
Now let’s set up some template responses. Although I recommend using MailSlayer’s Snippets App, Google Labs also offers a free canned response tool that you can activate in the Labs setting of your Gmail.
Canned responses are a great way to cut down the time it takes to write emails. It also allows you to add rich text such as links, images and formatting quickly, all of which greatly assist your customer to resolving their issue or finding the information they need. If your website already has an FAQ page, you can add a link to your FAQ to your canned responses.
While the word “Canned Responses” has a negative stereotype, let’s face the facts: when it comes to customer service, nine out of 10 questions you are receiving have already been answered before. The good news is, you can always take time to personalize each email if necessary.
Putting it in action!
Now that we have our inbox set up and ready to go, let’s walk through the typical workflow when answering emails.
The FIFO (first in/ first out) rule comes into play when answering customer support emails, so click to the back of the list (the emails you received the longest time ago) and work from the bottom up.
Click on the email and immediately drag your “assigned to” label to the email. This means you have now claimed ownership of this email and are responsible for answering it. Doing this will also help you find emails you were working on (in case you run into any distractions while answering an email).
Read the entire email first, this is important as a lot of people will read until the first question and then answer it as fast as possible and miss other important questions. Once you have read the email, use the snippets/canned responses if you can to quickly answer the questions in the email and then add any additional information needed. If you need to follow up with this person, drag the “follow up” label to the email and if it has important information about the person also drag the “important” label to the email.
Adding these labels makes it easy to constantly list who you need to follow up with and what emails had important information when you need to find their emails again.
Using your favourite CRM (I suggest MailSlayer’s Notes) add any new notes about the customer that can help you with future communications and also summarize any problems the person had as well as the actions taken from this conversation.
Keeping notes saves you a ton of time. Think about it, if a customer emails you about a problem and you have a few email exchanges back and forth and then 3 months later they write back with a cryptic message saying “The problem happened again”, you will be able to easily review your conversation notes instead of reading through multiple emails to figure out what the problem was to begin with. Notes alone will save you hours of time when answering emails!
Now that you have answered the email, spell check and double check to make sure you have answered all questions (if you didn’t that means the person will need to send another email to you, a sign of poor customer support).
Now Send and Archive the email and you are ready for the next email.
This workflow has saved me and my co-workers hours of time when answering emails and it’s an extremely easy one to implement into your own workflow.
I started MailSlayer because I found that there are a lot of great apps out there to help you with answering your emails, however, many of them force you to counter-intuitively leave your email workflow to use them. MailSlayer is an app platform that plugs in to Gmail and adds powerful apps like Notes, Snippets and Labels directly to your Gmail workflow, all of which are combined to help you write, organize and send emails faster.
For Inbox Heroes, Betabeat is curious about your war stories, productivity tips and moments of extraordinary email. Send us an email to tips et betabeat daught com with “war on email” in the subject line and a paragraph or two (or more!) about how you deal with your influx of electronic letters.