UK retailers “failing at email customer service”

Chris Ward
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The UK’s top 40 retailers are failing to answer 45% of all customer service questions directed to them via email, statistics from the 2015 Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study reveal.

The research also states that the average time taken to answer questions sent by email has increased over 8 hours to 43 hours 52 minutes between 2014 and 2015, while the percentage of retailers successfully answering a query sent via email dropped from 63% to 58%.  

In contrast, tweets were being answered by retailers within an average of 4 hours and 5 minutes, over twice as fast as 2014’s 13 hours 10 minutes.

Eptica generated its findings by assessing each retailer's ability to answer ten basic, sector-specific questions via the different web-based channels. The brands assessed ranged from Apple and Amazon to River Island and Top Shop 

The results suggest retailers are switching their customer service focus to social channels, possibly in line with stats from Business Systems that found that social media enquiries were set to account for up to 11.5% of interactions in contact centres this year.

However, Eptica’s Julian Sammells states that customer expectations for service response times are increasing across all digital channels:

“With ecommerce sales breaking the £100 billion mark in 2014, digital channels are now central to the success of retailers, whatever sector they are in,” Sammells said.

“Unfortunately the 2015 Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study found that there has been little improvement in how retailers are performing compared to 2014, with a major drop in email speed and wider gaps between best and worst. Retailers need to evaluate how they are performing for digital customer service and invest accordingly to ensure they are ready for the future demands of Christmas 2015.”

Research from Dimensions Data shows that by the end of 2016, customers will commonly be using up to seven different digital channels including social media, live chat, SMS and video. And with 35% of customer interactions playing out via ‘non-voice’ channels – i.e. channels other than phone. –  managing customer service expectations across all the channels is a growing complexity.  

In a similar study by BDRC Continental focused solely on customer service via Twitter, BT and EE were rated as the slowest of the major brands researched in terms of responding to complaints made on the social network and response rates.     

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