Email management is a specific field of communications management for managing high volumes of inbound electronic mail received by organizations. Today, email management is an essential component of customer service management. Customer service call centers currently employ email response management agents along with telephone support agents, and typically use software solutions to manage emails.
Email management evolved from database management and customer relationship management (CRM). Database management began in the 1960s. IBM provided one of the earliest solutions and established standards for database management. Prominent database management platforms include Oracle, SQL Server etc. Vern Watts, inventor of IBM's Information Management System (IMS), and Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Corporation, are pioneers in database management systems.
As database management solutions became more sophisticated in functionality, marketing and customer service departments of large organizations started using information about customers for database marketing. Customer service managers soon realized that they could extend database marketing to store and retrieve all customer communications to improve visibility with key clients. This led to the development of CRM systems which managed communication with customers and prospective customers using various media, including phone, direct mail, web site, and email. Pioneers in CRM include David Duffield, creator of PeopleSoft, and Tom Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems.
As email became one of the most prevalent business-to-customer communication media in the 1990s, customer service departments needed specialized systems of tools and trained staff to manage email communication with their customers and prospective customers.
The first email management software solution emerged from the work of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Text Retrieval Conference (TREC) studies with the U.S. White House in 1993. At that time, the Executive Office of the President of the United States, in conjunction with NIST, was looking for ways to automatically categorize the growing volume of inbound email that President Bill Clinton was receiving. A nation-wide competition was sponsored to identify ways to manage email. The competition was won by a graduate student of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by the name of VA Shiva Ayyadurai. Subsequently, Ayyadurai obtained three patents in various aspects of his email management solution.
In 1994, Information Cybernetics, a company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developed tools for pattern analysis and categorization of emails and other electronic communication channels using the same methodology that was used for White House to manage high volumes of inbound email. The platform of tools was called EchoMail. The first company to adopt the EchoMail email management solution was AT&T. Working with Modem Media, one of the leading interactive advertising agencies, Information Cybernetics guided JC Penney in establishing their customer care and marketing email management process in 1997.
Another early company that developed email management software systems was FortÈ Internet Software, which produced Adante. By late 1999, companies such as KANA Software, Inc., also emerged to support this effort. Eventually, companies such as Siebel CRM Systems, Inc., incorporated components of email management into their CRM systems.
Typical system components
An email management system consists of various components to handle different phases of the email management process. These components include:
- Email ticketing system - One of the key tasks performed by email management systems is to allocate reference numbers to all incoming emails. This process is known as ticketing. All subsequent emails relating to one matter can then be grouped under the same reference. This allows users to track their correspondence in a more time effective and productive way.
- Email receipt module - Receives emails, filters out any SPAM and unwanted content to a separate queue (sometimes called email filtering), and assigns unique ticket numbers based on certain conditions.
Bayesian spam filters - Statistical technique of filtering spam that most current email management systems utilize
- Data enhancement module - Adds tags to each email for further processing and may include the ability to connect to remote databases and retrieve specific information about the email author and his/her transactions with the organization.
- Intelligent Analysis module - Reads the subject, message, and attachments, and any tags added by the data enhancement module, analyzing its content in an attempt to understand the subject matter of the email. This module may store this 'intelligence' as additional tags.
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