Retailers top league table on service, but lack consistency

Retailers in Europe are doing a better job of looking after their customers than any other industry sector, according to research from BT.

Retailers came out top in speed and quality of responses, but could do more to 'join up the dots' in managing customer relations.

The majority of companies offer three channels of contact: email, post and phone, but very few have any kind of integration between them.

Customer queries by email were answered within five days by 58 per cent of retailers. Only the finance sector performed better. Retailers' responses to email queries were judged the best, scoring 8.6 out of 10.

Retailers were even better at dealing with telephone queries. The average time to get a response was just 25 seconds. Only the travel industry came close, with average responses in 39 seconds.

However, while retailers did well at dealing with queries via e-mail and phone, they were not so good at connecting the two. For example, if a customer e-mailed a query and followed that up with a phone call, very few companies were aware of the earlier contact.

In addition, the majority of companies across Europe actually gave different responses to queries received via different channels. Some 85 per cent of companies gave inconsistent replies to the same question asked on the phone or sent by email.

The survey covered eight European countries and questioned 232 companies. It was carried out by Coleman Parkes, which contacted companies anonymously via email and phone.