Transversal has come out with another report showing the dire performance of many UK firms when responding to customers’ emails.

In its third annual Multi-channel Customer Service Study, released this week, the company tested 100 leading organisations by sending them routine questions by email.

Less than half (46%) answered those questions “adequately” and the average time they took to respond was almost two days (46 hours).

And although some companies responded within minutes, nearly three in ten didn’t bother at all.

According to Transversal, the figures showed “a major deterioration” since 2006, when companies adequately answered 60% of queries and responded on average within 33 hours.

Dee Roche, its director of marketing, added:

“With consumers increasingly demanding personalised service, email should be at the forefront of delivering tailored responses that help convert browsers into customers.

“Some organisations are doing this extremely well but the general picture is of lazy, generic replies – if companies eventually respond.”

The report also found:

  • Insurance companies were the worst performers, taking over from telecoms providers in previous studies.
  • Retailers seemed to perform well – Transversal said CD/DVD retailers were the best, followed by fashion, grocery and electronics sellers.
  • Many companies still use email simply to direct customers to other channels, such as their call centre or website. Apparently one utility firm responded to a request for pricing information by telling the researcher to go to a comparison site.
  • Some firms have improved their response times at the expense of those responses’ quality. For example, telecoms companies’ average reply time fell from 32 hours in 2005 to 26 last year, but those providing adequate responses fell from 70% to 20%.

Transversal blamed this last issue on a lack of monitoring of responses, as well as a “focus on agents answering questions to hit service level targets rather than spending the time to properly resolve customer queries”.

Roche added:

“With many contact centres outsourced this also has a financial aspect – companies that are paid a set amount for every email answered, have no incentive to ensure agents are providing detailed, useful responses.

“Equally contact centre managers targeted purely on numbers don’t have a remit in their jobs to monitor content.” 

Related research:

Online Customer Service Solutions Buyer’s Guide

Email Marketing Industry Census 2008