Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Managing Inbound E-mail House List

There will be a high turnover of your e-mail addresses or 'gone-aways' (in traditional direct mail speak). Research by MercerMC (2001) showed that, on average, 20 per cent of customers in a typical database will change their contact information over the course of a year. Changes vary from 16 per cent for the address and 17 per cent for the job to 25 per cent for the e-mail address and 33 per cent for a cell-phone number. Furthermore, they estimate that the cost of updating or reconsenting these databases can run into tens of millions of dollars for a large database — not to mention the opportunity costs from lost customers. These figures highlight the importance of creating measures to capture these changes. Worse still, the permission provided for contact may change through time, since you will have asked different questions about how personal data will be used to market to the customer. Options for managing this change include:

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  • periodic checks by call centre staff and at other touchpoints
  • a 'change personal details' option on the web site (this is required by data protection laws in some countries)
  • e-mail or telesales campaigns aimed at updating data (Case study 4.1 shows how this process works).

Software designed specifically for cleaning a list is Winpure (, although many ESPs also contain this capability.

Note though, that changing e-mail address seems to have stabilized more recently. The

Doubleclick Sixth Annual Consumer E-mail Survey(Doubleclick, 2005) showed that, when asked how long they had maintained their e-mail addresses, most consumers had kept the same address for four to six years. Nearly two-thirds of consumers had never changed their e-mail address.

The survey (Doubleclick, 2005) also showed that almost half of all consumers reported maintaining at least three e-mail accounts — an increase from 2004. Nearly 95 per cent considered one of their e-mail addresses to be a 'primary' account; 72 per cent used a single address specifically for making purchases. This shows the importance of gaining the primary e-mail address for opt-in, particularly for an e-newsletter. To help with this, make sure you explain the proposition in detail and give examples of previous e-newsletters. If the frequency is relatively low, this may also help with gaining the primary e-mail address.

Inbound e-mail is all incoming e-mail to the organization. This includes bounces but also managing e-mail enquiries from customers. There are two conflicting concerns in managing inbound enquiry or support e-mails that will of effectively answering queries from customers whose support query may refer to a combination of online or offline activities. Multi-skilling also reduces hand-offs, and can increase variety for contact-centre staff.

Balance between automation and manual processes.Automated responses, intelligent routing and autosuggestion are all techniques, described in the next section, which can be used to reduce the number of queries handled by human operators. If the automated approach fails, however, then inappropriate responses may be received by customers.

Insourcing or outsourcing. Software, hardware and staff can be deployed internally or outsourced to an application service provider, who will work according to a service-level agreement to achieve quality standards.

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