Email is the new snail mail: Best practice for faster response in customer suppport communities

USA Today had a piece on the younger (18-30 demographic) spending more time with Instant messaging than with email.  “But when immediacy is a factor — as it often is
— most young people much prefer the telephone or instant messaging for
everything from casual to heart-to-heart conversations, according to
research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “And there is a very strong sense that the migration away from e-mail continues,” says Lee Rainie, the director at Pew. For many young people, it’s about choosing the best communication tool for the situation. You might use text messaging during a meeting
that requires quiet, Rainie says, or make a phone call to discuss
sensitive subjects so there’s no written record.”

An AOL survey also indicate something similar. “While adults and
seniors in 2005 showed more interest in IM, its gains on e-mail are
largely due the “teens and tweens” with spending power and trendsetting
tastes, according to survey data America Online released Thursday. For instance, the demographic has the highest percentage
(66%) of IM users to use it more than e-mail, America Online found.
That’s three times the percentage of other age groups.”

Matt at Jive Software also points to an informal report of IM usage inside Jive.  “It represents a staggering amount of email that we didn’t have to send,
as we’ve found that each IM conversation can represent several emails
(getting a question answered over email can take several messages back
and forth).”.

Kathy Sierra also talks about quick reponse to questions being a good reason communities thrive.

The one takeaway: If (like 45% of High tech and Telecom companies are) running a customer support oriented community OR if your primary demographic is Tweens and Teens Instant Messenger should be a crucial part of your enabling technology for quicker responses to help users communicate and get answers to their questions.