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How to Choose the Best Customer Management Tools for Mail-Order and E-commerce Businesses

Are you efficiently managing customers in your mail order and e-commerce business? Tool-based customer management is essential to meet the diversifying needs of today’s customers and to ensure the long-term sustainability of your business.

What tools should you use to take your customer management to the next level? If your current customer management tool is not meeting your needs, what can you do? These questions and more will be answered in this article.

We’ll show you nine helpful criteria to go by when choosing a customer management tool, so that you can choose a solution that will really make a difference to you process. At the end of the article, we’ll also include an explanation of the key points to consider so you can avoid the common mistakes when choosing a solution for your company.

Communication Business Avenue, has been helping some of the world’s largest companies to integrate call centre systems and digital communication tools for the past 16 years.

What Is Customer Management in Mail Order and EC?

Customer management in the mail order and EC business means recording and managing customers’ ‘personal information’ and ‘enquiry details’. Such information could include: The name, address and purchase history of a customer. The contents of customer enquiries e.g specific questions, the history of actions leading up to the enquiry, and the channels used for the enquiry.

The Need to Level up Customer Management

Why should you upgrade your management of customer information, including “personal data” and “enquiry details”? Because the current trend for the mail-order and e-commerce market is that it’s no longer expected to expand rapidly. Unfortunately, companies are competing with each other for the limited market population.

In order to be successful in such a situation, LTV (or ‘Life Time Value’) needs to be maximised.

In other words, customers who use your services once must be encouraged to continue using them, in order to bring in additional profits. This requires improving customer management and increasing customer convenience and satisfaction.

Communication Between Customers and Businesses Declines

Young people today are not so inclined to contact call centres using voice channels. They prefer to solve their own problems by looking at websites and FAQs by themselves.

This means that for mail order and e-commerce businesses, there are fewer opportunities for continuous communication with customers.

How can you record and manage personal information and enquiries in the face of decreasing touch points between the business owner and the customer?

Customer management tools can be used to explore customer traffic lines, understand preferences and identify needs. The tools allow you to centralise customer information and share it with all departments in your company. As a result, you can provide the right service to your customers and maximise LTV.

Tools Used for Customer Management in Mail Order and EC

There are three tools used for customer management in mail order and EC

CRM

CRM stands for ‘Customer Relationship Management’ and is a tool designed especially for managing the relationship between business owners and their customer. It can be used to manage important customer information, such as customer names, addresses and purchase histories.

*CRM may also include SFA tools that can manage customer correspondence history and MA tools that can find customers who are willing to buy.

ERP systems

ERP systems, which stands for ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’, are systems that can be used to manage business information on the business owner’s side. These systems are often used to manage such areas as sales, inventory and accounting.

Enquiry Management Systems

An enquiry management system is a tool for managing and sharing customer enquiries on a single screen.

The system allows you to share which customer made which enquiry, when the enquiry was made, which channel the enquiry was made on, and with what result. It can also be used to identify which person handled the enquiry, when and how it was handled, and the result of the enquiry.

Modern enquiry management systems can be used in conjunction with CRM and ERP systems and can also be linked to call centre systems.

9 Essentials When Choosing an Enquiry Management System for Customer Management

Most mail order and e-commerce businesses will already be using some kind of CRM, ERP system or enquiry management system. However, they may not be utilising all three systems in conjunction with each other.

If each system does not manage and share information effectively, it will be difficult to provide customers with a high quality service. In other words, the key to improving customer management lies in linking the three systems – CRM, ERP and enquiry management systems.

There are a number of enquiry management systems that can link tools together to provide customer support. How though do you choose the right tool for your company from the many options available?

Consider the following nine checkpoints:

  • Free or paid for?
  • Cloud or on-premise?
  • Can it be integrated with existing systems? 
  • Does it have the features you need? 
  • Does it have AI functions?
  • Does it support automation (RPA)?
  • Does it have a wide range of supported channels? 
  • Is it secure? 
  • Is the price reasonable? 

Each of these checkpoints is explained below.

1. Free or paid tool?

There are both free and paid tools available for enquiry management systems. Naturally, free tools have simple functions and a limited number of users. Paid tools often have several plans, depending on the functions and number of people who can use them.

It’s important to take into account the functions you want to use and the number of people who will actually be using the tool, when deciding whether you want a free tool or a paid tool.

2. Cloud or On-premise?

There are two types of enquiry management systems: solutions that can be used in the cloud and on-premises versions that can be operated within your own in-house facilities.

Features of cloud-based enquiry management systems:

  • No need to procure in-house equipment.
  • Servers can be expanded and specifications can be changed when necessary.
  • The latest version is always available.
  • Remote work operation is easy.

Features of on-premise enquiry management systems.

  • Installation costs may be high and management requires specialist knowledge, but there is a high degree of freedom in design and operation.
  • Data is stored locally, so it is easy to manage.

Deciding whether to go for a cloud or on-premisis system should depend largely upon the business owner’s facilities, resources and available personnel.

Some business owners may be reluctant to make use of a cloud solution, doubting the level of security a cloud solution could provide. However, the reality is that nowadays, cloud systems have very advanced security measures and are often much safer to operate than on-premises alternatives, which require manual updates and risk being exposed to the most recent security threats.

3. Can It Work With Existing Systems?

As mentioned above, an enquiry management system is more powerful when linked to a CRM or ERP system than when used on its own. By sharing data with other systems, you can gain a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs and prevent errors in customer service.

4. Does It Have the Functionality You Need?

Make sure that the system has the functions you need: as well as integration with CRM and ERP systems, check for analytical functions and multi-device functions.

In particular, AI and automation (RPA) functions are essential for future customer management.

5. Does the System Have AI Functions?

If your enquiry management system is equipped with AI functions, you can improve the level of customer service even with a limited number of staff. What can AI do for mail order and e-commerce businesses?

  • Separate enquiries into categories and automatically assign them to the most appropriate person: preventing cases from being passed around or not being handled at all.
  • Automatic data entry: reduces the post-processing time of enquiries.                     
  • Display of knowledge and similar cases for replies: reduces search time for replies. 
6. Does It Support Automation (RPA)?

Modern enquiry management systems can also be used to automate repetitive processes. However, if the automation is difficult to set up, the operation will not work.

Choosing a tool that allows for no-code or low-code automation is often a shrewd decision, as it cuts down on development time and automations are much simpler to implement.

7. Are There a Wide Range of Channels Available?

Voice calling is not the only channel customers use to contact you. A wide variety of other channels are also used, including:

  • Email
  • SNS
  • Chat
  • Apps
  • Customer portals

An increasing number of customers are finding it more convenient to use e-commerce apps to chat directly with agents or to make video calls. As a result, more and more businesses are creating customer portals and implementing measures that empower customers to find the answer to their questions on their own.

In line with this, it’s important to choose an omni-channel enquiry management system that can handle a variety of channels, and not just telephone and email.

8. Is the Security System Secure?

Mail order and e-commerce businesses are regularly required to handled sensitive customer information. As such, choosing a tool that has all the necessary security measures in place is of the utmost importance. Hacking is often done via overseas servers, so it’s safer to choose a tool that meets international security standards and has a proven track record overseas.

9. Is the Price Reasonable?​

Unless you choose a free tool, there will be costs involved. Both implementation and operation will cost money, so make sure the price is reasonable. If you are a business with a clear peak season, choose a product that allows you to change plans in one-month increments to reduce operating costs.

Products that offer a free trial period or free plans are recommended, as you can try them out for a limited time, before deciding on a full implementation.

What to Look for When Choosing an Enquiry Management System?

If you look at comparison websites for enquiry management systems, more often than not you will see the following products at the top of the list.

  • Repiration
  • Zendesk
  • Mailwise
  • Mail Dealer
  • Yaritori

Here are five common pitfalls to avoid men choosing a contact management system. 

  1. Choosing a solution that only specialises in email management
  2. Uncategorisable mailer functionality
  3. Prioritising ease of use over customisability
  4. Low price but limited functions
  5. Difficult to operate

Let’s look at the above five points in more detail.

Are They Not Specialised in Email Correspondence?

Many businesses think that an enquiry management system only need to be used for email management. However, as mentioned above, email is not the only enquiry channel available today. It’s much better to choose an enquiry management system with omni-channel support to meet current and future needs.

Uncategorisable Mailers

The reality is that some businesses still receive many enquiries by email. However, many businesses are dissatisfied with the email functionality of the tools they already have in place. Common complaints include that the mailer is uncategorisable (meaning that all emails end up in the same inbox), the same email template is used regardless of the query, or the same case view is presented for every query.

What Mailer Solves the Above Complaints?

A mailer that automatically switches the UI and templates for each category.

An enquiry management system with excellent mailer functions is easy to use because it displays templates and case views for each category. Mail order and e-commerce businesses with a high volume of email enquiries will not go wrong if they choose a tool with excellent categorisation.

Prioritising Ease of Use Over Customisability

Some products prioritise ease of use to such an extent that customisability suffers. In particular, products that do not allow customisation of the dashboard can cause problems.

For example, check how easily you can toggle between dashboards used for analysing collected data (ideally this should be possible with a single click). Products that allow multiple KPIs to be added or deleted with a single click and allow dashboards to be rearranged by drag-and-drop are much easier to operate in the field.

Low Price but Limited Functions

Beware of products that are introduced because they are inexpensive. More often than not, the cheaper solutions only provide you with limited storage capacity and will charge you more for additional storage or functionality that would usually be included as standard with other providers.

Check in advance how much storage capacity is limited and what the capacity limit is for uploading files.

Difficult to Operate

Product solutions that are highly customisable often have the downfall of being difficult to use. If the product has a free plan or a free period, it’s recommended that you become familiar with the operation to a certain extent before starting a fully-fledged implementation.

Product with a free period of at least 30 trial period are excellent, as you can familiriase yourself with the tool with not upfront cost.

In Summary

  • To take your mail order and e-commerce customer management to the next level, make use of an enquiry management system that can be linked to a CRM or ERP system.
  • When choosing a modern enquiry management system, choose a tool with AI and automation (RPA) functions.
  • Be aware of uncategorisable mailers and products with poorly customisable dashboards.
  • If you are unsure whether you will be able to use a new tool, take a look at products with free periods or free plans once you have used them. Use an enquiry management system to improve the quality of your customer service and maximise your LTV.
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