By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
In my December column in Connections Magazine, I said, “Everything you currently do with phone calls, you need to apply to email. Answer email, screen email, route email, add value to email, prioritize email, and escalate email.” I’d like to delve into that a bit more, specifically as it relates to telephone answering services.
First, consider that, for most of your clients, you answer their main lines. Extending that to email, you can answer their main email addresses, such as those beginning with info@, sales@, and so forth. Because these are not specific individuals’ email addresses, companies usually assign someone to check these generic email accounts. However, doing so tends to take a low priority. Sometimes several days or even weeks go by without these being checked. I am aware of a situation where a company’s main email went almost a year without it being checked.
As a solution, you can offer an “email answering service.” Clients can forward or redirect these generic email addresses to your TAS. Your agents receive the messages and delete the spam, forward the routine email to the appropriate person or department, and reply to basic questions. If something qualifies as an “emergency,” you escalate it as appropriate, just as you would with a phone call. If it is an order, you enter it into their order entry system; if they want literature, you fulfill it, etc. Since everyone with email is overrun with it, and since most everyone has email, the overall possibilities for your client base are vast. Properly executed and marketed, it could be a completely new business line for you – EAS (email answering service)!
Also, specific email addresses, such as a customer service email, could be (and should be) redirected to you when your clients forward their lines in the evening. It seems like common sense, but I imagine that those who actually make provisions for their customer service email after hours are rare.
As far as individual employee email addresses, just like with employees’ direct lines, there is not as much call for your involvement. However, there is still opportunity, such as for a busy CEO. You can screen email, delete the spam, reply to basic questions, forward routine email to an assistant, and prioritize the rest.
As an example, on the TAS Trader website, my posted email is firstname.lastname@example.org, while the one I personally give out is different. Presently, they end up in the same place, but the potential is there for someone to screen all email@example.com emails, deleting the spam, forwarding sales inquiries directly to Valerie, our media rep, and forwarding the rest to me for my personal attention.
While any organization could do these things themselves, they might be better served to hire you to do it, just as they do for their phone lines. This means that your TAS could become an EAS, too!
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.