The percentage of interactions done by emails steadily increased and companies were keen to encourage this as they are cheaper to service. However, consumers are increasingly concerned that service levels for emails are much worse than those for telephone calls.
One-third of British consumers have sent more than 10 emails about a single customer service enquiry Nearly 60 per cent of customer service email enquiries wait more than 24 hours for a reply 9 July 2007, Gloucester, UK: A staggering 78 per cent of British consumers have been disappointed by a slow response to a customer service email enquiry, with the average consumer sending three emails before receiving a satisfactory response, according to research released today by Fasthosts Internet Ltd, (www.fasthosts.co.uk), the UK's number one web hosting company. The survey of some 1,300 UK consumers 1,327 UK adults interviewed by Tickbox.Net during June 2007 showed that 89 per cent of this group have been led to defect to a competitor brand as a result.
The 'Fasthosts Customer Service Email Study' also found that the average British consumer is only willing to wait up to 24 hours for a reply, with one in five (19 per cent) abandoning their enquiry after only 12 hours. Women are more patient than men, with 12 per cent prepared to wait up to a week, compared with only 7 per cent of men.
This is concerning news for UK businesses that receive customer enquiries by email. More than 30 per cent of consumers surveyed said they regularly wait three days for a reply, while nine per cent have waited up to a week and even two per cent reported it can regularly take up to a month. Interestingly, men are statistically more likely to receive a quicker response (21 per cent regularly receiving a reply within six to 12 hours). The average consumer (51 per cent of the survey group) sends three emails before receiving a satisfactory reply to their enquiry, while 33 per cent say they have sent up to 10 emails about a single enquiry. Of the latter group, men seem to be the most persistent sex, with 5 per cent more men than women sending up to ten emails; while women are more likely to abandon emails in favour of telephoning the company.
Slow or poor responses to customer service emails were found to elicit a negative emotional response in over 83 per cent of British consumers ' ranging from irritation and stress (a staggering 84 per cent); to feeling so angry that they wanted to tell somebody close by (38 percent); powerlessness and desperation (27 per cent); with a further 12 per cent admitting to outright anger and a desire to address the situation in person. Londoners unsurprisingly led the stress-brigade, with 18.3 per cent having considered marching down to a business' headquarters to vent their frustration in person.
95 per cent, approximately 35 million Britons, claim that their perception of a business is negatively affected by slow responses to customer service emails. 89 per cent of consumers were so annoyed that they felt compelled to seek out a competitor business immediately. This seemed to be most common for larger businesses, with 69 per cent of consumers surveyed saying their online customer service was sub-standard; while one in three Brits said it was small businesses that most needed to improve their online customer service skills.
Mark Jeffries, CTO of Fasthosts Internet Ltd said, 'British businesses really need to sit up and pay attention to their response rate for customer emails, or risk losing their customer base to competitor brands. The public suffers real stress from slow or sub-standard email replies so it is no surprise they feel so strongly about the issue. When asked to rate online customer service gripes, 'waiting too long for a useful reply' and 'automated replies that don't answer questions' were joint top gripe (64 per cent each); one in three consumers had suffered online customer service forms that had insufficient space to type their request (35.2 per cent); and 31.5 per cent were regularly annoyed by the unprofessional style of responses that they receive. Jeffries added, 'Significantly, our research highlights that it isn't just the speed of the response that matters to consumers ' it's how quickly they receive the right information.' As the UK's largest web host, Fasthosts offers a comprehensive range of web solutions including domain name registrations, email solutions (including mobile email services), shared web hosting, dedicated servers, online payment services, reseller web hosting and feature-rich broadband packages.