Improve Customer Service Using MS Outlook

In today's competitive market, customers expect fast answers when they use e-mail to contact you or your firm. Although you don't have to find an answer to the customer's question, resolve his complaint, or put together a quote within minutes, you do need to acknowledge that you have received the client's message and that you are working on providing the requested information.

This part of customer relations can be easy to do with Microsoft Outlook. You need to create a standard acknowledgement for incoming customer e-mails, and build a rule to automatically send the acknowledgement to the client. Or if you are out of the office, you can create a template to inform your clients whom to contact in your absence.

Create an Automatic Response Message Template

To send an automatic response message, start by creating a message template. Open a new message with File > New > Mail Message. Leave the To: and Cc: fields blank, but type a Subject like "Thank you for contacting XYZ & Co.," or "John Jones is out until 2-1-01," and enter the response text you want the template to display. The text of the message can be as short or as long as necessary. A standard reply might read: "Thank you for contacting me, I have received your e-mail and am working on an answer to your question," or "I am out of the office until 2-1-01, please contact Jenny at jjones@xyz.com or call 888-888-8888 extension 111." Conclude with a "Thank you," followed by your name and the name of your company.

When your message is finished, choose File > Save As, and select "Outlook Template" in the "Save as type" field. Name the template, note where you are saving it, and click the Save button.

Once you have your template prepared, you will need to create the rule that will generate your automatic response. This can be tricky if you use many e-mail addresses and can be simplified if you have a specific e-mail address that customers/clients use for all queries, complaints, or comments. (Note: Outlook 98, 2000, and 2002 come with a Rules Wizard that walks you through this step, but Outlook 97 users must first download and install the Wizard from Microsoft's Web site.)

In Outlook, select Tools > Rules Wizard, and click the New button. Click "Start from a blank rule," click Next, then check the box beside "through the specified account." Choose the appropriate e-mail account used for transmitting client mail (such as cleints@yourcompanynamehere.com) and click Next. Check the "reply using a specific template" in the next screen, pick the template you created earlier, and click Finish.

Another way to separate client e-mail is to apply the same subject line to all mail generated when customers click on a mailto: link on your Web site. HTML editors such as FrontPage and Publisher let you specify default subjects, such as "Question" or "Customer Inquiry" so that you can filter and respond to incoming mail. If you use this technique, you'd choose "with specific words in the subject" from the Rules Wizard, then enter the default subject you've set on your Web site's mailto: link.

You may like these other stories...

In the old days, we used to tape down receipts from our travels and submit them to accounts payable. But that was before remote employees who may live in a different city from the home office. And of course, there's all...
In 2011, electrical services and technology provider Parsons Electric in Minneapolis, Minn., decided to take its accounting to the cloud. Monica Ross, the company's director of strategic projects, talked with AWEB about...
Event Date: July 24, 2014, 2 pm ET In this presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA revisits the Excel feature you should be using, but probably aren't. The Table feature offers the ability to both boost the...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 16
Hand off work to others with finesse and success. Kristen Rampe, CPA will share how to ensure delegated work is properly handled from start to finish in this content-rich one hour webinar.
Jul 17
This webcast will cover the preparation of the statement of cash flows and focus on accounting and disclosure policies for other important issues described below.
Jul 23
We can’t deny a great divide exists between the expectations and workplace needs of Baby Boomers and Millennials. To create thriving organizational performance, we need to shift the way in which we groom future leaders.
Jul 24
In this presentation Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA revisits the Excel feature you should be using, but probably aren't. The Table feature offers the ability to both boost the integrity of your spreadsheets, but reduce maintenance as well.