Who Hears the Inbound Mail?

If your site is generating traffic, it’s generating inbound emails.

Inbound from your customers and prospects.

And if you have a 1-800 number, you’re getting inbound from there too. Same for your live help, if you have it.

So here’s my question of the day.

What do you do with your inbound?

When a caller asks a question and receives a reply, what happens to that information?

When a hundred emails come in and, hopefully, are answered, what happens to those answers?

And when employee #34, Charlene, logs off after a hectic eight hours on live help, what happens to the questions that she’s answered?

Inbound knowledge often in the form of questions and complaints is invaluable information.

Inbound tells you about your customers’ real-time experiences. And these aren’t logs or analyses. These are the natural voices of people interacting with your site.

This is golden.

So what do you do? Sure, I know that you have permanent logs of all the emails and live help sessions for the day. But how do you learn from that? What do you do with all that information? How do the people within your organization learn from what’s been said?

My guess is that in the majority of cases all that information is filed away and never even seen.

Charlene may develop a very real sense of how people experience the site. But does her manager? Does the CEO?

The people answering the phones and maybe that’s in an outside call center get an even closer feel, because they hear the voices. But where’s the benefit to you if your call center is in Nova Scotia?

How often does that familiarity with the voices of your site’s customers filter up to the VP of marketing?

Yes, you can apply some fancy, knowledge-based customer support software to collect knowledge from every customer interaction. But is that knowledge shared with the people who design your site, spend your advertising dollars and develop strategic plans for your future?

Probably not.

Well, it’s time to wise up. Outside of your company, the network of Internet customers is becoming hugely connected.

You’ve got to start listening. You have to develop, flex and grow in response to what your customers are telling you.

How do you do it?

Darned good question. There are some easy answers like ensuring that everyone, including the CEO, spends some time on the phone, answering inbound emails and handling live help sessions.

And you can have someone edit and distribute a daily sampling of all inbound activity.

Maybe there’s even some software out there that can present a weekly “Inbound Synopsis.”

But I think the most important thing is to create a culture within your company that obsesses over inbound information.

If you make it an imperative for everyone to make it her or his business to find out what your customers are saying, the details will take care of themselves.

That culture must drive all employees, when faced with any decision, to ask themselves, “What are our customers telling us about this right now?”

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