Email is doing a slow fadeout as a customer communications tool, according to Listen Up—Here’s How Consumers Want To Talk With Brands, a study by Astute.
In 2018, the study found, 29% of consumers preferred email or online forms as a way to ask questions. Today, that percentage has been reduced to 5%.
But email ranks as third for reporting complaints — probably because it serves as documentation.
The overall decline in email — among all age groups — may well reflect the failure of brands to set up triggered email systems and teams that can quickly deal with issues.
“While this change is happening fast, emails aren’t fast,” the study notes. “People want resolution fast, and the need for speed is choking this channel of communication.”
In contrast, live agent chat wins with consumers across the board. Of consumers polled, 54% of shoppers prefer chat for asking questions, up from 12% in 2018.
Live chat is also most popular now for making complaints, up from 9% two years ago. Telephone is second, chosen by 25% and email comes in third with 10%.
Chat is preferred by 66% of people in the 18-24 age range, and by 45% of those in the 55-65 category.
For people with an urgent issue, email and online forms tank at 1%, down from 20% in 2018. Everything else does better, including chat (47%), and telephone (37%). Chat is way up from 8% in 2018 and phone is flat.
Telephone is seen as a means of resolving urgent and complex issues, regardless of age, but not for getting answers to questions.
Privacy fears may play a role in some consumer choices — for example, people may be hesitant to use email in some instances because it clearly reveals identity.
Texting and social chat have marginally changed from 2018 to the present, declining from 9% to 7% for questions and rising from 6% to 7% for complaints. For urgent issues, they have fallen from 10% to 6%.
Video chat barely rates for any of these tasks.
The research shows that consumers are “adapting their preferences based on both the progression of digital, as well as on brands' ability to leverage technological advances to improve customer experience," concludes Shellie Vornhagen, senior vice president of marketing and client services at Astute.
Astute, a provider of CX software as a service, surveyed 301 consumers in January, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.