The pandemic has hastened the trend of consumers communicating with brands digitally rather than face to face or by phone. This trend will not fully reverse. Therefore, to be successful it is essential for Irish business to deal effectively with new customer digital enquiries.
To better understand what Irish consumers are experiencing, PAN Research a leading Irish mystery shopping agency, conducted the first large scale Digital Customer Enquiries Benchmarking mystery shopping programme in Ireland.
We sent 326 digital enquiries (by Email, Website Contact Form and Facebook) to 85 businesses in 12 different market sectors. The fieldwork took place in May & June 2020.
This study set out to answer 5 key questions:
1. Are businesses replying to customer digital enquiries?
2. How do response rates compare by sector?
3. How promptly are digital enquiries replied to?
4. Do company responses answer the customer’s query?
5. Is the reply appearance professional?
26% of new customer digital enquiries sent to companies did not receive a reply within 3 working days.
At a time when business is rapidly moving online this is a startling finding. Our online enquiries included questions like “Can I pay for products on your website using PayPal?” or “I'm interested in X product/service can you give me any further information on it? ”If a customer asked these types of questions when in a store or by phone how many of them would be ignored? ZERO I suggest! So why are 1 in 4 customers being ignored online?
Our study shows significant differences in response rates depending on what channel was used.
Queries submitted on a company’s Facebook page by our mystery shoppers were more likely to get a reply (86%) compared to queries sent using the main customer contact email address (78% replied) or the website Contact Form (67% replied).
There were large differences in response rates to digital enquiries between different market sectors.
In 7 of the 12 sectors (Estate Agents to Multiples below) at least 80% of customer digital enquiries were responded to within 3 days. The response rate for the remaining 5 sectors was lower. The factors that influence response rates are many and varied, ranging from how effective the company’s CRM system is, to how the query was sent (by email, website contact form or social media) and the what the customer was asking about.
In terms of customer satisfaction, the findings suggest that the most satisfied customers are those making Sales queries on Facebook, as they were responded to quickest. The least satisfied customers made Product, Service or Delivery queries by website Contact Form.
58% of digital enquiries were replied to within 24 hours
The golden rule when dealing with digital customer enquiries is that the faster you reply the better, and brands that don’t reply will lose business.
According to research conducted by Forrester (a US Market Research firm) 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
Our mystery shopping research shows that the faster the response time the more satisfied customers are with the response itself.
An answer to a customer question might be considered wonderful if it arrives within 1 hour but disappointing if it arrives three days later.
When it comes to social media, quick responses become even more important to customers. Research for Sprout Social (a US Social Media outfit) shows that 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media, while 79% expect a response in the first 24 hours.
Of the enquiries that received a reply, 73% fully answered the customer’s query.
Customer enquiries made by Facebook were not only answered quicker but were also answered more thoroughly than those by Email or Contact Form. 86% of Facebook query replies fully answered the customer’s query, compared to 72% of Email replies and 67% of Contact Form replies.
The mystery shopping research shows that the quality of the answer received is also impacted by the question asked.
For example, consumers who made an online enquiry about Pricing receives a full reply to their query in only 52% of cases, compared to an average of 78% for Sales, Product & Delivery queries.
First impressions of how a reply looks can impact how customers view a brand.
In the vast majority of replies Irish companies personalised their responses by including the customer name. Responses also rarely contained typos or grammatical errors.
For Email and Website Contact Forms enquiries, it is interesting to see that responses often do not include a link to social media channels or contain a company logo. Replies do normally include a contact name, and a job title or department name - handy for further follow up.
How brands can improve the experience of customer’s who contact them with a digital enquiry.
5 key pieces of advice to share:
1. If you don’t already know, then find out how long it takes your business to respond to customer digital enquiries. Fast response times have the biggest impact on customer experience. So, setting a target for response times and measuring your performance is important. Mystery shopping and CRM software can help.
2. Customers are more impressed with a quick answer rather than a fully complete answer. If a team member does not have a complete and correct answer to hand then reply to the customer with an acknowledgement that you have received their query and tell them when they can expect a full reply.
3. In most cases avoid your first reply to a digital enquiry being a request for the customer to call you or asking for their telephone number. If someone makes an enquiry by social media they probably want a reply by social media.
4. Sending rapid responses within an hour does not work if the response fails to answer the customer’s query. Incomplete or inaccurate replies, with no further follow up, will lead to more time-consuming contacts from the customer, or the customer simply going to a competitor. Responding to your customers with helpful and relevant information is the key to customer service success.
5. How your reply looks is important. For email replies Include consistent corporate branding, contact and personal details as well as social media links.