Email is the preferred customer service channel among online shoppers in the UK, according to a new survey by Rakuten.

Around half (49%) of respondents said they prefer to use email compared to 43% on phone. Younger shoppers are highly likely to turn to social channels when these touch points fail, with 46% of under 25s and 33% of 25-33 year olds using social to air their grievances more publically.

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.

However data included in a separate infographic on poor customer service suggests that the situation is very different across the pond.

According to the infographic, 90% of US consumers prefer to use the telephone for customer service, 75% face-to-face and 67% prefer the company website or email.

This discrepancy is likely caused by conflicting methodologies, as although the infographic doesn’t say how its research was conducted Rakuten’s survey of 1,000 UK consumers was carried out online among people that had previously bought something from an e-commerce site.

Therefore the sample is obviously biased towards internet-savvy shoppers.

Repeat purchases

Rakuten’s survey also asked consumers what would be the most likely factor, other than price, to encourage them to make a repeat purchase from an online retailer. 

Loyalty programs and rewards were the most popular factor (39%) followed by strong after sales support (20%) and personalised offers after purchase (14%).

Among respondents aged over 55 after sales support was actually seen to be the most important factor.

A separate infographic from Zendesk paints a slightly different picture, as it found that a third of consumers (34%) believe that exceptional customer service is the best way to build customer loyalty compared to 20% who want rewards and 13% who want exclusive or relevant offers.

A further 54% of respondents said they would consider increasing the amount of business they do with a company in return for loyalty rewards.