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Customer service departments leave 50% of online queries unanswered

5th Mar 2015
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UK businesses are failing to answer up to 50% of customer service queries delivered via online channels, according to research from Eptica

Across company websites, Twitter and email channels, the study found that customer questions were being left unanswered in 52% of all cases queried, including 36% via websites, 59% on Twitter and 61% through email.

The annual Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study evaluated 100 leading UK companies on their ability to provide answers to 10 routine questions via the web as well as their speed and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter and chat.

While it found a large proportion of questions left unanswered, it did reveal that for those that were answered, the speed of answering emails and tweets has improved dramatically.

In 2014 it took an average of 61 hours and 39 minutes to get a response on email – this year this had been reduced by more than half, to 29 hours 27 minutes. However, this masked major discrepancies, including one retailer over 30 days to answer an email. The fastest respondent delivered a resolution to a query within nine minutes.

“Customers have never been more demanding, and many brands are responding by investing heavily in the customer experience,” said Julian Sammells, sales director UK & Ireland, Eptica.

“This year we saw little overall improvement from 2014, with 52% of questions going unanswered and the performance of many brands worsening either overall or on specific channels. The chasm between the leaders and laggards is growing. This should act as a wakeup call to underperforming brands – they need to improve the customer experience if they want to be successful moving forward.”

While email and company websites are established channels, Twitter is still fairly nascent as a customer service platform and, despite having a high rate of unanswered queries, appears to be the mast many brands are nailing their customer service colours to, with Eptica’s study highlighting the channel as having the fastest response rate of those queried.

Average response times on Twitter dropped from 8 hours 37 minutes in 2014 to 5 hours 27 minutes in 2015, and replies were received in just two minutes from two food and drink retailers. Faster replies came at a price, however, with 11% of tweets not directly answering the question, instead requiring consumers to send follow up communications or to switch to more expensive channels such as the telephone.

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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