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From Email Overload to Instant Replies: How Digital Messaging Relieves the Bottleneck

Graham Bragg | Business Development Director

How to deflect inbound emails and improve query resolutions with digital messaging channels 

This blog is based on a webinar, “Is Email in Your Contact Centre Creating Bottlenecks?”, presented by Cormac O'Neill, Graham Bragg, and Niamh Judge  

Contact centres often receive too many emails, which can overwhelm staff and lead to long response times. This issue persists even though we now have digital messaging channels, like WhatsApp and SMM, that can step in and life the load from agents. 

Emails have been around for many years. A rudimentary form of email was first seen as far back as 1971 and it was undoubtably a “killer app” in its time. More recently, companies have been seeking ways to improve how they use emails, including trying to get automation to work for them. 

Some Background Stats on Email 

email stats
Today, there are
4.25 billion active global email users, with 319.6 billion emails sent daily.  

Impressively, the average open rate for emails is 20%, but for credit and collections emails, this drops to about 8%, as many people delete emails that they consider spam or intrusive. However, it’s interesting to note that mobile email open rates are around 81%. 

Moreover, nearly 50% of emails are unsolicited and these are often blocked by spam filters, which particularly affects financial-related emails.  

Why Do Contact Centres Need to Reduce Email Usage? 

High Volume
Agents can become overwhelmed, leading to potential delays in response times. 

Inefficient Routing 
Emails tend to be more verbose than text messages, requiring agents to wade through long texts, increasing delays and decreasing customer satisfaction. 

Lack of Integration 
Emails often result in disjointed customer experiences and in difficulty tracking interactions. Digital channels, designed with data sharing in mind, integrate more seamlessly with technology stacks. 

Slow Response Times 
Manual processes and high volumes cause delays. For example, one Webio client had a response time of 5-7 days for emails, whereas digital messaging offers almost immediate responses. This is especially problematic in time-sensitive industries like credit and collections. 

Spam and Junk Mails 
Spam clutters inboxes, wastes agent time, and often results in emails being ignored or deleted. 

Demographic Shift 
Today, people expect instant responses, and emails simply aren't instant. A delay of a few days, plus the back-and-forth nature of email communication, can extend this to a week or two. 

How This Affects Customer Engagement in the Real World 

In many call centres, the email handling process is laborious.
Agents sift through inboxes, send automatic responses, and forward emails to the appropriate person. Long emails are difficult to navigate, and finding the intent takes time. This manual process includes copying information, looking up customer history and data, and then manually typing responses, often resulting in canned and impersonal replies. 

This time-consuming process means replies can take 48 hours or more. This isn't a customer journey; it's a customer pitstop, often leading to frustration. When email first appeared, it was revolutionary, but today, it appears outdated compared to digital messaging. 

Agent efficiency drops by 75% when using email compared to other digital channels. It's hard to argue with those numbers. 

So, What Can You Do? Smart Deflection to Other Digital Channels 

It's easier than you think to move more than 60% of email contact to faster digital messaging channels like SMS, WhatsApp, or web chat. By deflecting email traffic, you can remove the noise and streamline communication. Here’s how:

Add icon links next to your email address 
This gives people the option to switch inbound channels.  

whatsapp icon

Place QR codes on all printed and current email campaigns 
Make it easier for people to contact you through a simple click to WhatsApp. 

Proactive outreach 
Simply inform customers that a messaging app is now available. For example: 

 "We listened to you, our customers, and are pleased to let you know that you can now contact us over WhatsApp, making any contact with our team faster than ever before. Simply save this number to your mobile device."  

SMS this message with your brand name and number. 

Automated email replies 
For example, "Did you know you can now speak to us over WhatsApp for a faster reply? Simply message 1234 stating your account number and query." 

Deflect to other inbound channels 

A case study in customer engagement in debt collection showed that adding WhatsApp, along with automation, chatbots, and channel integration, led to significant improvements: 

  • 57% decrease in inbound emails 
  • Over 80% open rate 
  • Over 90% first conversation resolution 
  • Over 70% decrease in resolution time 
  • Over 60% increase in agent efficiency 

Real-time conversations with AI or human agents achieve results quickly, far surpassing email's efficiency. 

Automate What You Can, but Maintain Quality 

Automating email processes, like sending automatic responses and using templates, involves much manual work.  

However, digital messaging with AI and automation offers extensive possibilities, using entities, intents, and propensities to understand customer needs to route them correctly for the best query resolution.  

Integration with backend systems via API allows for personalisation and accurate data handling, and forms and uploads can simplify the process. Furthermore, all actions are fully audited for insights. 

Automation levels of customer conversations with Webio clients rose from 52.4% in Q2 2021 to 78.2% in Q4 2023. Unlike emails, which were never designed to be conversational, messaging apps excel in automation, resulting in significant efficiency gains.  

AI customer service
Cost Implications 

Though emails are cheap to send, the human resources required to manage them are expensive. 


Emails are encrypted in transit but can be intercepted and read more easily than digital messaging channels like WhatsApp, which offer end-to-end encryption. Digital messaging is thus more secure than email. 


While email still has a place, its usage needs to be reduced, controlled, and more focused in busy contact centres as customers seek prompt resolutions to their problems. Diverting to faster, smarter channels quickly reaps rewards, enhancing agent efficiency and enabling live conversations with AI assistance.

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