Some messages are so important you should be able to prove they were sent. Does this apply to ‘important’ emails sent to your customers? It does for transactional emails.
Companies make and archive email copies for legal purposes, and to improve customer experience. But how to do this correctly?
It is important to know what the requirements are for an archiving processes of transactional email. In the following paragraph the term “message copy” will be further explained. Consequently three purposes of email archiving are discussed. Finally we share 10 requirements for implementing a message archiving processes for transactional email.
What is a message copy, exactly?
A “copy”, is a factual copy of a unique message or notice as it has been created and sent to one unique recipient. In the case of email this means a copy of the sent message contents as it was received by the customer.
We tend to think of a “carbon copy”, or “CC”, which is not the same as a message copy. The form for message copies are for example PDF’s or a general readable document format, kept in a central storage or database, that can be accessed by multiple systems in your organization.
1. Email copies for the purpose of legal proof
Message copies are mainly being kept as proof. For example as a record of personal tariffs a customer has been offered by an energy company, or the exact terms of service a customer has received for his car rental.
These copies are then used in case an onus of proof is required, in the event of complaints or conflicts. For this use, it’s essential that the stored email is an exact and factual copy of the message as it was sent to the customer. When sending a message to 1000 people with only 1 difference, for example a different price, we should archive 1000 unique message copies.
2. Seeing the same email as the customer just received
Another use for copies is found in customer service centers. Having insight in communication history helps to understand the question or complaint. But more important: seeing an exact copy of an email on the computer screen really lets employees form an understanding with the customer. This adds up to an effective customer service and consequently a higher level of customer satisfaction.
In many cases, it is a very recent email that triggers customers to make a call merely minutes after receiving the email. Inbound call centers should have those messages accessible in real-time. In many sectors like travel and service companies, this is essential.
3. Access via a personal log in environment
A third way to use message copies is making them available to customers in their personal online accounts on a company’s website. This applies for organizations that have long term relationships with their customers, like insurance companies and governmental institutions. These organizations provide customers with a personal log-in account and add the option to view previous communications.
Offering message copies is considered a service and provides transparency towards customers. A definite advantage for the organization is improved service efficiency. It reduces the number of inbound calls for extra information or customers requesting for copies of previous emails.
Ten requirements for archiving emails
In order to apply the various uses of copies, the following requirements should be met:
- Copies are created on the same moment they are rendered and sent, real-time.
- Archiving and making them accessible should be in real-time.
- A copy contains the literal content of the email (text, details, images, lay-out) including the variable elements (data) as received by the customer.
- No alterations: message copies should never change. Not even to match the current corporate identity, changes in the template, etc.
- A copy contains the email attachments and text version of the email.
- Information such as the email address, subject line, sender details, date and time should be stored along with the copy.
- Process data, like an client ID and process ID should be available to label and archive the message.
- Form: PDF or a format that is generally readable through different interfaces and easily to distribute.
- In case the email did bounce, the bounce should be registered.
- The process should be scalable and shouldn’t affect the primary email sending process itself.