Small-biz Outright solves its big inbound e-mail problem

By Published on .

Good e-mail marketing isn’t just about the content and successful delivery of your outbound messages; it’s also about how you respond to incoming questions. Bookkeeping software provider Outright, a four-person company that sells to small businesses and the self-employed market, recently learned this lesson and decided to formalize the way it deals with inbound e-mails.

Outright’s problem was volume. The company was getting about 40 e-mails a day focused around customer service issues, transactional questions, feature suggestions and comments generated from its outbound e-mail newsletter. The sheer amount of work it took to respond to all those messages was overwhelming, said Ben Curren, the company’s co-founder.

“At first, we had a couple of e-mails coming in and my co-founder and I would reply right away via Gmail and ‘CC’ each other so we knew it was taken care of,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, we as a company got more traction, and the amount of e-mails increased significantly. It was so overwhelming I was spending an hour or two every day dealing with e-mails. Sometimes I would even reply to an e-mail and not realize my partner had already replied.”

The company started looking for a solution that would route e-mails to the appropriate person, who could then send a reply. After evaluating five software programs, Outright selected Email Center Pro from Palo Alto Software.

The software lets Curren and his team insert notes for each other that won’t appear in the outgoing response, allowing them to discuss how to handle a particular customer or problem. In addition, the software has pre-defined templates, so common questions can be answered in a single click.

Outright now keeps track of the most commonly asked questions and uses them in its other marketing communications. “When people ask questions that we feel would be useful to the community as a whole, we can post them on the blog for everyone to see,” he said. “And the blog goes out on Twitter, so we are using our e-mail to seed our social networking strategy.”

Going forward, the answers generated in the e-mail program will become an online FAQ, too, he said. “We’re implementing a community section on the site to reduce the volume of e-mail. We should have it up by the end of June.”

E-mail processing now takes only about 30 minutes a day, Curren said, and customers are getting the best service possible.

“Now e-mails are arranged like a to-do list,” he said. “It’s painless.”

Most Popular
In this article: