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Almost a quarter of the top 100 UK businesses fail to provide an email address to non-customers, according to a new report from Eptica.

The 2012 Eptica UK Multichannel Customer Experience Study analysed the responses of 100 organisations via the web, email and social media channels, replicating research conducted in 2011.

In many cases results have deteriorated since 2011 – more than a quarter (28%) of companies performed worse this year despite being asked exactly the same questions through the same channels.

And the situation appears to be particularly bad for email customer service. As the penetration of smartphones increases email is becoming a more important method of communication.

It is vital for customer service, as it provides a written record of correspondence and means customers don’t have to wait around on the phone.

Last year we reported that Ryanair had been investigated by the EU for failing to provide an email address, instead requiring customers to pay 10p a minute to phone the call centre.

However the Eptica report shows that businesses appear to be moving away from email contact, with almost a quarter (23%) of companies failing to provide an email address for non-customers.

And companies that do respond to email aren’t doing a particularly good job of resolving queries. While two-thirds (64%) of businesses in the study replied to emails, only 39% provided an accurate response.

Furthermore, 51% of businesses didn’t immediately acknowledge incoming emails, which is extremely poor considering that the initial response can easily be automated.

Consumers also have to wait longer to get a proper response. The average time to receive a reply lengthened from 15 hours 31 minutes in 2011 to 25 hours 50 minutes in 2012.

The failure of businesses to respond via email is likely to be quite damaging for their brand, as a new Rakuten survey shows that email is the most popular customer service channel among online shoppers.

Around half (49%) of respondents said they prefer to use email compared to 43% on phone.

Rakuten’s stats are similar to findings from a survey we ran last year using Toluna. It revealed that 44% of UK consumers preferred email for customer service while one in three preferred telephone.

David Moth

Published 6 November, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1680 more posts from this author

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Nick Stamoulis

Businesses have to play the game by their customer's rules, especially when it comes to customer service. However your customers want to interact with you is what you need to provide them! I can't believe companies aren't even willing to provide something like info@xxxcompany.com

almost 4 years ago

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Phil Reed

Too many brands claim they're seeking to develop greater engagement with consumers, when they're clearly failing to do so. Email response is one issue, but there are similar issues with the lack of response via social media. The service provided to non-customers should be the same as that provided to customers. And very often it is - the trouble is, it's equally bad.

almost 4 years ago

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Neale Gilhooley

Until very recently RyanAir forced customers to FAX in complaints and refund requests, even after booking online. Non-custmoers had no chance of a reply.

But they have just announced a 10% increase in profits....

almost 4 years ago

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Tony Edey, .

The problem for most companies is Customer Service seems to be an annoyance, it's not directly revenue generating and it can be complex with so many channels to be contacted from. However it's almost a PR function to be able to respond accurately and in a timely manner as poor customer service is a sure fire way to not get repeat business, regardless of channel or how cheaply you sell your goods (123-reg, I'm looking at you).

I'm a big fan of 24/7 self service (e-service) systems with self updating, public facing knowledgebases, it's such an effective method of servicing people's needs and minimising answering repeat questions, and they can be relatively straightforward to implement. The usual complication is any integration with existing systems.

almost 4 years ago

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Tony Edey, .

I should also add that GOOD customer service is of course a great way of driving repeat business. John Lewis do this better than pretty much anyone else I've seen.

almost 4 years ago

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Christopher Weir

This isn't an acceptable way for companies to operate. How can they expect to develop a profitable relationship if consumers are unable to contact the company?

Ideally companies should respond to all enquiries, and utilising email and social media is cost effective way to do this. All companies need to do is use a collaborative unified inbox so that whichever medium the message is sent their teams can assign messages internally to the right people.

Ignore your customers at your own peril, if they can't raise complaints with the company then you can guarantee that they will make sure everyone else will hear about it!

Bad press can be more costly than managing relationships.

almost 4 years ago

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