Wondering if you can get that shirt in your size and favorite color? As a customer, you should be able to get your query answered by a retailer or manufacturer. But, according to a recent STELLAService survey, chances are emailing customer service won't get you a complete answer to your question. And that's a pretty big deal, too; according to an American Express survey, when it comes to simple inquiries, more customers prefer email than any other communication method (38 percent prefer email, compared to 16 percent who rely on the phone, the second most popular method).
How online customer service stacks up
In STELLAService's survey, "Mystery shoppers" emailed simple questions to the 25 largest online retailers (from Apple to Zappos) for 45 days in a row. Only 54 percent of email responses offered a complete answer to the testers' questions. The worst retailers sent complete responses only 20 percent of the time and often utilized auto-replies, which directed users to look for an answer in online help pages.
During the 45 day survey, only five retailers displayed what the testers considered "above and beyond" service. According to the American Express survey, only 7 percent of consumers said companies usually exceed their expectations for service, compared to 31 percent who said they're usually underwhelmed.
Fear not, though. Some retailers are far more effective and even exceed expectations. According to STELLAService's survey, L.L.Bean answered completely almost 90 percent of the time, and responded fastest -- averaging 41 minutes and never exceeding 24 hours. Gap, Zappos, VictoriasSecret and TigerDirect were also among the top five retailers to consistently send complete replies and all averaged over 70 percent complete.
Making it work better for you
When you are not dealing with one of these top-notch companies, STELLAService's CEO told Mashable a few ways customers can get better service through email:
LifeHacker makes a recommendation for phone queries that could easily apply to email: Label all your service emails and reference them whenever relevant. While it might seem threatening to caps-lock-shout "I've emailed about this five times!" it's far more effective to write "I received an email from Stacy on March 23 that said...;" Store all customer service emails in a labeled inbox or save them in a folder on your computer. Reference ticket numbers as well if your previous emails came with one.
If all else fails, ConsumerReports.org recommends taking your customer service queries to social media, where companies are actively interacting with customers.
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