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Are retailers ignoring their customers?

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5pm has become less rush hour and more mobile hour, as consumers become a society driven by social media and mobile technology. The retail industry does not escape this cliché, if anything it’s a primary focus in a digital game of rush hour dodge ball.

Julian Sammells, Sales Director UK and Ireland at Eptica, a multichannel and multilingual customer interaction management software specialist, said: “With ecommerce sales breaking the £100bn mark in 2014, digital channels are now central to the success of retailers, whatever sector they are in”. However with more digital platforms comes more problems, and in an age where speed is critical for retailers, many companies are missing out.

Sammells said that a ‘2015 Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study’ found that there has been, “little improvement in how retailers are performing compared to 2014, with a major drop in email speed and wider gaps between best and worst”.

The report found that leading UK retailers are failing consumers when it comes to customer service.

Emails

Emails are a cause for concern, as the average time it takes to answer emails has risen to a lengthy 43 hours 52 minutes, an increase of 8 hours from 2014.

The percentage of retailers successfully answering queries also dropped 5% from 63% to 58%, showing that retailers aren’t paying enough attention to their inboxes.

There was division among the sectors, with electronics retailers answering 80% of emails, while entertainment retailers managed only 40%. Entertainment retailers actually came off the worst in the findings, answering just 33% of queries asked via email, the web and Twitter.

The gap varied from business to business, across the 40 UK retailers involved in the study. One company took just 9 minutes to answer an emailed question, while another took over 30 days.

Twitter

Contrary to those communicating over email, Twitter users were given a slightly better response, with 43% of tweeted questions being answered in around 4 hours 5 minutes, a poor figure actually, considering 88% of retailers are on the social network. This left Eptica questioning whether or not all measures had been carried out to support a growing Twitter handle.

Web

Communicating over the web came out the strongest in the report, with 65% of questions being answered online, compared to 60% in 2014. However, fashion retail, which usually tops other sectors with its speedy responses, dropped behind banking this year.

Web chat was an area many retailers were missing out on. Just 25% of businesses claimed to offer it, while only 5% of companies had it working in the test. All retailers with chat did successfully answer all questions asked however.

Results

The above proposes the question - how much business are retailers truly missing out on?

Though the web remains the strongest communication channel for retailers, the 65% figure of questions being answered could be improved. In a world driven by technology and in store beacons, retailers could potentially be losing loyal customers.

Eptica suggests that retailer performance on email demonstrates that too many suffer from inadequate resources or broken processes. Retailers must achieve the basics before planning more profligate ventures or they are at risk of losing crucial business:

“Consumers want a seamless, straightforward experience, yet the Eptica study found that too many companies are making it difficult to get answers to even the most basic questions across digital channels. Retailers that fail to improve are likely to lose customers to their rivals unless they focus on improving the experience they offer”, said Oliver Njamfa, CEO and co-founder, Eptica.

Published on Friday 20 March by Rachel Gee

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