Those general inboxes can seem so great. You know the ones, like sales@mycompany, info@, support@, and contact@.
Your company probably uses them to route emails to a particular team or department. But here’s the thing: those general emails just might be losing you sales.
That’s a shame; after all, 50 percent of leads can be qualified but might not be quite ready to buy. If a potential customer sends you an email at your Info@ and your company drops the ball—forgets to respond, replies twice with conflicting information, and so on—there’s a good chance you’ll lose the sale right out of the gate.
Best case scenario, those general inboxes make it easy for your customers to reach the right person at your company through a single contact point. Worst case, they’re a graveyard for communication breakdown, both with customers and your team.
But with a solid foundation—the right processes and workflows—those emails are ripe with potential for new sales, new customers, and increased brand loyalty and revenue. Ideally, the message lands in the hands of the right person on your team, who responds quickly and professionally.
It starts with the name
Building that foundation begins with understanding what you want those contacts to do—and knowing what they want to accomplish. At the most basic, customers and prospects just want timely, relevant help, and they are turning to you for it.
For a more optimal customer experience, think about how you name those general email accounts. Don’t base them on job titles or departments. Instead, base them on what your customer most likely wants to accomplish when they contact you, says Shaylor Murray, managing director at Limelight Department, a digital design, marketing, and sales optimization firm based in Eugene, Oregon.
Instead of “sales@,” “jobs@,” or other general terms, Murray suggests more branded terms, such as “letsdothis@” and “jointheteam@,” which Limelight set up for a client’s sales team and HR department, respectively.
“Why would you use ‘sales@?’ Nobody wants to be sold,” explains Murray. “If it’s a car dealer, why not ‘firstname.lastname@example.org?’ Use something that highlights what will make the customer excited.”
Naming your email address so that it reflects your customer’s desired action, instead of your internal departmental area, “can improve the affinity a customer has for that brand or organization,” says Murray. “It builds some character and feel. Put some thought and branding into the sorting and email. Give it some personality.”
Murray suggests thinking about website forms and catchall emails in a similar manner to online CTAs (calls to action). Getting a CTA right can have an effect on your bottom line; give your general email inbox names the same level of attention.
“The word I hate most on websites is ‘submit,’” says Murray. “Think of email the same way. Think of website buttons. What is the desired action and outcome? What does the person filling out the form want to accomplish? What is the desired action you want them to take?”
Direct inquiries to the people who can fulfill them
When someone emails one of your organization’s general email addresses, what actually happens next—and is it working? Do the right team members have access to that shared inbox? Can they see who’s handling each email in real time? Is the team discussing customer situations and working through problems together?
When 50 percent of sales go to the vendor that responds first, time is of the essence.
If general emails are getting routed to, say, a receptionist or office manager, that can make it take longer for the sales team to receive, qualify, and respond to a lead. “On an operations side, it’s always a question of who is supposed to be receiving and/or sorting email,” says Murray.
IT can set up general emails to route to the department or individual directly responsible for fulfilling the customer need, says Murray, along with adding text/SMS notifications. “For an email inquiry for sales, set up an SMS that goes to the sales manager or particular rep,” he explains. “Sales are vital to the company, and especially on a high-ticket item. SMS can be a key way to get inquiries into the funnel quickly.”
Email collaboration software like Outpost can also help if your organization is set up so that one person routes incoming email messages to the rest of your team. Outpost’s message assignment feature allows you to assign threads to the right person without messy forwards and ccs. Plus, you can see which messages have been assigned, and which still need attention, so nothing slips through the cracks. Teams can keep internal conversations about specific messages or requests in a private notes section, rather than risk your comments being accidentally forwarded to the customer.
Depending on the nature of your organization’s products and services, you may want to consider lead forms instead of direct email contact. Forms can pull in more information, helping you qualify a lead before sales devotes resources to it, or get the information needed to help customer service resolve a problem.
Setting clear policies and expectations about response timeframes matters too. In today’s fast-paced world, that response timeframe is shorter than you think, especially for sales inquiries.
“We shoot for a seven-minute response on sales forms,” says Murray. “Seven minutes is hot. We consider it that those contacts go cold after an hour.”
Contingency planning prevents and mitigates problems
What happens when the person handling inbound email on your team goes on vacation? What if multiple people give a variety of answers at the same time?
Setting workflows about typical sales or support situations can be key to preventing problems—or to dealing with problems effectively before they become overwhelming or reputation-harming:
1. Examine who your customers and prospects are. What are the problems your organization solves, and what are some typical sales and support scenarios?
3. Set seamless transitions for primary and backup points of contact. When the inbox owner is out of the office, who is the backup who will delegate and manage those messages? How does that transition happen?
Using a shared inbox tool such as Outpost can be helpful here. Sharing login credentials can be confusing if you need to go back and figure out who responded to a given message, but using an email collaboration tool can reduce confusion through increased transparency.
4. Cross-train your team. Do your policies and procedures lay out which individuals or teams will step in when someone’s out of the office? How are you building in training sessions for team members to cross-train on one another’s duties?
5. Plan ahead. Having a plan in place will help your team navigate challenging situations that crop up quickly or require all hands on deck.
The more your organization can plan through these scenarios in advance, the more the sales team can stay nimble on working through new leads, and the more seamlessly your overall email communications can be with customers and prospects.
Completing the sales cycle and adding to the bottom line
When emails come through your general inboxes, you have an opportunity to bring more revenue to the bottom line. Sometimes that’s from cost-saving efficiencies, such as quickly and comprehensively resolving a customer’s problem. Sometimes that’s from increasing revenue, such as having a lightning-fast response time to a prospect’s email, which impressed them and convinced them that your solution was the right fit for their needs.
“Make sure you intimately know your target audience,” says Murray. “Offer them something compelling. If you get those two things right, not a whole lot else matters. There are other factors, but get those right, and 80 to 90 percent of the work is done.”
Those initial points of contact can lead to more emails, exchanges of documents, phone calls, and in-person meetings.
Qualifying those leads and applying timely, consistent follow-through is key to getting—and keeping—those customers:
Use your initial email response to get to know the customer, understand their pain point, and listen to their point of view. Pay attention to the information they provided and what’s between the lines, and focus your reply on how your product or service addresses those pain points.
Ask targeted questions that show your understanding of their problem, and express confidence that what you offer can help them make things better, and your concern that you want to help them grow and succeed.
Lay out options for next steps. Do they need some literature for review? Do they want to schedule a demonstration? Do they need to talk with similar customers you’ve helped? Make sure the prospect knows what the next steps are, both on their end and your end. Knowing the next step in the process can make it more likely that the prospect will want to take that next step with you, and not one of your competitors.
When your teams are delegating and resolving emails from general inboxes, your organization is in a much better position to reduce costs (such as how long it takes to resolve a customer service issue) or grow revenue (such as landing more customers through more responsive, timely emails from the right personnel).
No matter whether it’s a prospect or a current customer, those emails are still part of a sales cycle. Having solid processes can make those general emails something that, instead of being a frustration, adds to the bottom line and becomes a solid, useful, profitable part of the sales cycle.
“People know these general emails are junk drawers,” says Murray. “Any business that has a clear call to action and a compelling offer isn’t going to lose money in sales due to email addressing. The brand affinity and appeal to the customer matters most. It shows customers that the company is committed to customer service and a quality experience.”
Posted in: Customer Service