Retailers ‘inconsistent’ on social media queries

UK retailers still have plenty of room for improvement when responding to customer service queries via multiple communication channels, the results of a study from Eptica suggest.

Eptica evaluated 40 UK retailers, working in the food and wine, consumer electronics, entertainment and fashion sectors on their ability to provide timely and accurate answers to 10 routine questions posed via the web, email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.

The study found that UK retailers answered 59 per cent of questions asked on Facebook, 55 per cent via email and 45 per cent via Twitter – and that only 10 per cent provided consistent responses across those three channels. On average they answered just 55 per cent of questioned asked. Almost seven out of 10 retailers failed to provide consistent answers on more than one channel, with either contradictory or non-existent answers provided.

Entertainment retailers answered only 38 per cent of questions. Food and wine retailers answered 60 per cent, consumer electronics 55 per cent and fashion 68 per cent. Of course, the figures mask variations: one electronics retailer answered an email query in three minutes – while one entertainment retailer took 152 hours.

The research also reveals that fewer retailers are offering email as a communications channel; 88 per cent of companies field questions sent via email, down from 98 per cent in 2015. There is an interesting contrast with US retailers here – in the US email is still the best channel for customers to find answers to questions, according to previous Epitica research. Almost three quarters) of US retailers responded successfully to email queries, compared to a 54 per cent response rate for Facebook pages and just 20 per cent for Twitter.

In the UK email queries are answered, on average, almost 33 hours after being sent, where as in the US average response time is just under eight hours. US retailers also respond more quickly than their UK counterparts to questions sent via Chat applications; in four and a half minutes, compared to almost ten minutes in the UK.

But UK retailers respond more quickly to Facebook and Twitter queries; in just over six and a half hours for Facebook queries, compared to 27 hours in the US, and in just over five and a half hours for Twitter, compared to 31 hours in the US.

“Retailers in the UK and US are focusing on specific channels, rather than adopting a truly multi-channel approach that delivers high levels of service whatever the customer’s channel of choice,” said Eptica CEO Olivier Njamfa. “Companies need to learn from each other and deliver a consistent experience if they are to thrive in increasingly global markets.”

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