July 3, 2014, 10:14 AM

E-mail still has the chops for customer service

A new survey shows that e-mail beats Twitter in resolving shoppers’ concerns.

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Go to enough e-commerce conferences and talk to enough retail and marketing “evangelists” and it’s easy to come away with the impression that e-mail is like that once cool uncle of yours who still sports a mullet and wears flannel shirts.

Guess what? That uncle still has it.

New survey results from the United Kingdom show that when it comes to customer service, e-mail trounces Twitter. Eptica, a U.K.-based seller of customer interaction management software, surveyed in the first half of 2013 40 “leading U.K. retailers” among the following sectors: food and wine, consumer electronics, entertainment and fashion.

The survey finds that the retailers resolved 63% of customer service questions posed by shoppers via e-mail. That compares with 60% of questions posed via retailer web sites and 33% posed on Twitter.

Other survey findings include:

• The average time for a Twitter response from a retailer stands at 13 hours and 10 minutes. That average includes an unidentified laggard that took “over 76 hours to answer,” Eptica says. Subtracting that virtual eternity, the average was 6 hours and 44 minutes.

• Only 5% of surveyed retailers offered web chat as an option for customer service.

• Giving consumers more customer service choices can create confusion—just 13% of retailers provided similar answers across two channels. Two fashion retailers “gave conflicting answers on e-mail and Twitter—denying the existence of an ethical sourcing policy on one channel, and providing a link to it on another,” the report says.

• The fastest e-mail response time was seven seconds. The longest was 219 hours and 19 minutes—more than nine days. 

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