Slowpoke Email: Consumers Say It Tanks As A Service Vehicle

Email may produce the highest ROI of any channel. But it fails as a customer service vehicle, and brands don’t seem to know it, according to the State of Customer Experience 2018, a study by the Northridge Group.

Only 48% of consumers say email is easy to use. But 73% of businesses proclaim that it is. 

The only larger disconnect concerns the phone, which 48% also rate as easy — compared with 75% of businesses. Of course, less than 50% of consumers find any channel easy to use.

Here’s more bad news for email specialists: Email is the least preferred channel among young adults.

For example, only 20% of millennials prefer email, vs. 44% who like digital and 34% phone. And 22% of Generation Xers choose email — also third in a field that includes  digital (35%) and phone (41%).

In contrast, email narrowly beat digital among boomers (23% for email, 22% for digital). But with 55%, phone beats both.

And 28% of those in the Silent Generation — those between the Swing Era cohort and the boomers —prefer email, and 18% like digital. But phone wins again, with 52%. 

It could be that phone wins because you can vent on it. But speed of response is probably the main factor.

Among those polled, 69% say phone response occurs within an hour. And 66% report the same about online chat.

Email ranks at the bottom in speediness, with only 19% receiving an answer within an hour. On the contrary, 81% say it takes a day or more to get help, vs. only 31% for the phone. 

In the past year, 36% have contacted a firm by email to make a comment, and 31% to complain. But only 22% have used email to ask a service or product question, 18% to make account change, 17% to address a billing or payment issue and 16% to resolve a problem.

Consumers vastly prefer the phone or billing issues (56% versus 26% for digital channels) and to resolve problems (54%). 

But digital is the winner for making comments (44%) and complaints (37%). In addition, 37% prefer it for asking service or product questions. But 40% would rather use the phone.  

Just what do they mean by digital? Web sites, online chat and mobile self-service. But only a third of consumers think text messaging is easy to use, and roughly the same percentage say that about mobile self-service.

However, two-thirds find web sites user-friendly. All three of these option have grown in terms of perceived usefulness by consumers. 

In general, 62% needed to make multiple contacts to settle their most recent customer service issue. Only 46% resolved the issue in an hour, and 10% say it was never resolved. Moreover, 29% say it was difficult contacting a business for customer service.

The Northridge Group surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers, and conducted a parallel business study.

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