Email may be the best channel for promotional marketing. But it isn’t setting any records as a customer service tool.
Only 56% of brands have an email address for customer support. And of those that do, 70% failed to respond to queries about the firm’s refund policy, according to Customer Service Benchmark Report, a study by Netomi.
This suggests a disconnect between what consumers want — 54% used email for customer service last year, according to Forrester Research — and what companies are providing.
Netomi, a customer service firm, studied the responses of 973 unique companies listed in NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange.
It found that customer support Web forms are offered by 64% of brands, and 37% provide both web forms and email addresses. Another 27% have web forms only, and 19% are limited to email. But 17% have neither.
Moreover, 80% of companies lack a customer service auto-responder.
Of 540 companies with email addresses only 20% responded within 24 hours. The average response time was 36 hours — 36 times longer than the one hour expected by 31% of customers.
The fastest companies were Supermicr (three minutes) Nestle (five minutes) and LKO 6 minutes). Worse, 10% of companies took more than five days to respond.
In general, Fortune 500 companies were 1.4x slower than non-Fortune 500 companies
Forget weekend support — customers are eight times more likely to get a response on a weekend than a weekday, although 57% expect the same service at night or on weekends.
Of the vertical sectors studied, here are the percentages of that responded to email queries at all:
On the positive side, firms that prioritize email as a support channel use personalization 85% of the time.
Moreover, 71.6% address a person by their first name, and 72.2% sign off using the agent’s first name.
But only 26% of consumers who sent a query receive a personalized email.
In another lapse in best practices, only 14.2% sent a satisfaction survey, meaning that “nearly 86% of companies are essentially operating in the dark,” the study notes.
What firms do is often tied to the kinds of email addresses they have.
Netomi found that 46% of firms with customer service/support email addresses respond. What’s more, 38.6% personalize their response.
Firms with generic Contact, Info & question addresses respond 22.3% of the time, and a mere 20.2% personalize the reply.
Let’s end on a happy note. Netcom sent emails asking for a birthday message for a five-year-old whose Spongebob Squarepants-themed birthday party had been cancelled.
One in five companies sent a personalized birthday greeting. And 59% went above and beyond when presented with special email requests..