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How do I reduce customer emails

Nathan Huppatzdog_smart

Over the past few years I have listened to a few people talk about measuring customer service, and reducing email

One speech comes to mind whenever I think about making more of an effort to improve customer service and reduce our time spent answering emails (and responding to phone calls.)

The topic of this speech was and the lengths they went to, to not only reduce their customer contact but improve customer support in the process.

It was really amazing to see what they had done. Using some simple measurements and following up some findings with implementation of FAQs and other information on the site they were able to drastically reduce the number of customers they had to communicate with, whether that be via email or phone. Most online businesses get emails, more than they do phone calls (I would guess), so I will talk a little about reducing the amount of emails you have to respond to!


Customer Service Email Metrics

Yuck, that sounds horrible doesn’t it?! Really, it can be pretty straightforward, so lets get into it.

How do you measure your customer service, and how do you improve and reduce customer contact at the same time?

Depending on the technology you use, this can be a relatively easy task, or a slightly more time consuming one. They key is though, you have to accurately measure your customer contact, examine WHY you are getting so many emails, and actively DO SOMETHING about it.

Say you want to reduce the number of questions that your customers email you. Where do you start?


We use a tool called Request Tracker to handle all of our customer email enquiries, from eBay and our online stores.

Request tracker allows us to set up different email ‘queues’ which can be managed by staff. We have a queue set up for all of our ebay accounts individually, and queues for our online stores.

Each email that arrives is automatically given a ticket number. The emails can be assigned to any other queue or user in the system, so for larger organisations you can have a queue ‘manager’ that distributes emails to customer service staff.  Because ticket numbers are added to the subject line of emails, and emails back to the customer and subsequent customer respones are automatically appended back onto the original email in the system, giving you a history of communication. Brilliant!

How can you measure?

Request Tracker allows us to

  1. Search the database to see how many customers emailed us BACK after we originally replied, and
  2. Provides the ability for staff to enter a time taken to answer the customer.

Ideally you want to find a way to measure your emails too.

  • maybe a basic count of your inbox each day?
  • maybe install software like request tracker (or Google for others)

Your key metrics will probably be

  • How many emails did you have to respond to each day?
    • This may be broken down into spam emails, customer questions, admin emails etc
  • How long does it take you to answer each of these emails
    • maybe you can measure using your email tool
    • or mark off minutes taken to respond on some paper by your desk

Analysis & Goals

After you have some data (which may shock you!) you need to analyse it to see where you can improve your systems, and set some goals.

You may find you get lots of spam which takes 20 min a day to sort through. Try something like changing your email to a Gmail address, and POPing mail from your gmail account (let Google remove your spam for you!).

But most likely, you will have lots of questions from customers, about a variety of different topics.

  • Where is my product?
  • How much is postage?
  • Do you combine items?
  • If I win a product for $4, can I buy another one for that price?
  • What colour is part X of your item Y?

We did some work last year on our customer emails, and grouped them into shipping questions, product knowledge questions and more, and tried to work out what we could do to fix things.

Our goals were

  1. Try to reduce contact to ONE response to a customer (solve their problem/answer their question first time)
  2. Use customer questions to improve our listings and general communications, to answer questions before they needed to email.


Making changes is the next step. How can you reduce the questions?

Start by looking at what sort of questions your customers have been asking.

  • Add more information to your listings and descriptions
  • Use features like eBay’s FAQ
  • Provide an FAQ page of your own, and information about Shipping, Warranty and Returns
  • Implement a process. If a customer asks a question about a product, answer it, and consider adding the information to your product description.

We made a couple of changes to our listing templates and our emails to try and reduce the emails we were getting, and this helped a lot.

We also made changes to the automated emails that we send customers, with more information about payment processing times, shipping times and tracking numbers and more.

We also implemented a ’standard response’ system. We found many of our customer questions could be answered with only a few well worded email responses. These responses were typically for customers who just hadn’t bothered to read our FAQ or detailed descriptions. So a simple ‘copy and paste’ system worked well for us.

You can also look at other policies. Perhaps if a customer emails back a second time, you call them.

To find more tools, search for customer service software, or online help desk software.

(This article originally published at

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