Why Email Fails as a Support Tool

By Richard on Sep 30 2023
Why Email Fails as a Support Tool

Your product is out in the market and now you've got customers using it. You need to provide them with support somehow, so what do you do? Like most businesses, you probably turn to email. You'll just give them an email address to send any of their problems to. If you're planning for the future, you'll make this a custom email address like support@yourcompanyname.com. If you're not planning for the future, you'll send it to whomever you've decided is going to answer these emails, mysupportperson@yourcompany.com.

In the early days, this works out fine. You don't have many customers, there's not many issues, and the number of emails that need dealt with is fairly small. It's easy for one person to remember to reply to the customers and make sure things are dealt with.

But then you get popular. Your sales team are crushing it. And more support requests start coming in. Or maybe the number of them doesn't change, but the complexity does. It takes your support person longer to resolve the issue, and that means the requests are backing up. Customers are chasing for updates, your customer success team have started getting complaints.

It's time for somebody else to start answering these requests, and ease the pressure.

And now the real problems start.

Email is a one-person sport

Email is naturally a one person sport. It's your email, you answer it, you manage it and only you can see it. But now two people need to manage incoming support requests, so you update your support email address (you did create it as custom address, right?) to send incoming emails to the inboxes of both support staff. It seems logical.

What will actually happen is that these two staff now need to co-ordinate with each other constantly to make sure that they're not replying to emails that the other one has already dealt with. Since neither has any visibility into their colleagues inbox, it's impossible for them to tell who has replied to what. If one of them comes back from a holiday, they'll have lots of emails in their inbox that they can safely ignore. At least, hopefully they do, because there's no way to tell whether any of them have been accidentally missed. Our original support person probably has more knowledge too, because they've been answering issues for longer, but they can't even see if a quick win can be had, because what the other person is doing is just invisible to them.

Worst of all, both support staff spend hours trying to resolve the same issue, each of them replying to the customer after half a day trying to fix a problem. Now you're just wasting time.

No internal visibility

That customer success team that's getting complaints? They're still getting them. They want to know what the customers they deal with have been sending in emails about, and they want to make sure that their colleagues in the support team have been doing their best to answer them. Maybe they have some knowledge that would help the issues get resolved quicker, and they just want to pass it on. Maybe they just want to be kept in the loop so that the next time the customer phones to complain, they're better equipped to give them an update on where things are.

But there's no way for them to do that, because they can't read the email of anyone in our support team. We could add them to our inbound support email address, and drop the emails into their inboxes too, but that just makes our co-ordination problem worse. And since not every customer success person deals with every client, we'd now have people getting emails from clients they didn't deal with.

No customer visibility

Larger customers often have IT and support staff of their own. Depending on the product you're selling, it's very possible that there's a level of internal support that happens within that customer for your product. If you're lucky, they're almost like an extra pair of hands. It would be really great if they could see the support requests too, so that they knew the problems their own staff were having. It may be that they can solve the problem themselves, because they have knowledge their colleague doesn't. Or it may be that they just want to know the pain points for your product so that they can bring it up at their next IT meeting.

But unless customers start copying in the rest of their colleagues to each email they send, there's no way that information spreads.

Even for the smaller customers, sending an email can be a bit of a black hole. They send it to you looking for help, but they've got no way of tracking it, seeing if it's been worked on, or if it's even be assigned to somebody to fix without just having to email you again to ask. It's not a great customer experience to not know where things are.

No priorities or categorisation

Chances are that out of all the email support requests you're getting, some are more important than others. It might be because the customer tells you how urgent it is in the email, or explains the impact it's having on them. It might be because you're trying to get more business from them, so your sales team are keen to make sure that the support requests from a specific customer are dealt with first. Or it might be because one customer pays you a lot more money than the others, and you don't want to do anything to jeapordise it.

But there's no way for a support person to know all that, especially if they're new. They've also just got the tools that their email provides them, so they can probably flag an email, but they can't do anything to order it above others, or to let anyone else know that they've done so. They can categorise it by putting it into a folder, but it's still only in their inbox. There's no company wide strategy for handling them.

No reporting

Since we hired a new support person, we want to make sure they're doing the job well. Not only that they're resolving issues, but also what our customers think of them. Are they helpful with the responses they send back or are our customers getting a poor experience?

The other thing we want to see is exactly where are the requests coming from? Do we have a customer who is sending in lots of issues every week, while others send in nothing? Is there something about that customer that means we didn't train them well enough, or that they have some combination of our product features that just results in more issues?

We can't do any of that with email though. It's just two inboxes and no attached data, so we just have to cross our fingers that everything is going fine.

Help desk to the rescue

All of these problems are solved with our Issuebear help desk product.

  1. You get a single view of all incoming requests, that everyone can log into. Whether they're a support agent, or your customer success staff. Everyone can see the requests that have come in, and it's always clear who the issue is assigned to. The customer success staff can even post private notes on the requests or on the customer to keep the support staff up to date.

  2. The customers can log in as well. They can see all the support requests they've made, and customer admin staff can see all the requests across their organisation and even manage them. No longer does the customer need to guess what's happened to their issue.

  3. Issues can be categorised based on what kind of issue it is, such as a support or sales request. They can be split down further, like saying which product the issue covers, or a specific feature within it. They can be given urgency and impact levels, and they can even capture custom information based on your own needs, such as the URL of the page the customer was having a problem with.

  4. You can collect customer feedback for each closed ticket, to get a rating on how well you're doing. Then you can run reports on customer satisfaction, as well as how many tickets you're getting from each customer, and which of your support team is doing the best job answering them.

Stop suffering through using email for support and switch to a dedicated solution.