LONDON: Only 15% of the UK's leading companies responded to tweets from customers and, of those who did reply, nearly two-thirds (64%) took more than an hour to respond, according to results from an undercover test.

In an experiment to check how seamless the customer experience is in the country, consumer experience solutions provider Webhelp UK also surveyed over 2,000 UK adults and found only 10% feel they can rely on social media to make complaints.

The research, conducted by YouGov, said almost two-thirds (62%) prefer to use email to make formal complaints while 46% rely on the phone, but this rises to 84% when it comes to general enquiries.

Furthermore, one-fifth (20%) of respondents aged under 44 said they expected companies to provide them with a web chat facility, but only 13% of firms do this.

David Turner, CEO of Webhelp UK, said that even though traditional forms of communication still play a predominant role, they should not be offered in isolation.

“People now expect to be able to contact companies though multiple channels, switching between them at their convenience,” he said.

“However, our report suggests while many businesses have developed new channels in response to customer demand, many still fall short of delivering effective customer support through them,” he added.

In a separate survey of customer experience professionals, Webhelp UK found nearly all (95%) respondents thought integration of channels into omnichannel is the most important issue facing the industry.

And three-quarters said better use of data on customer interactions is needed to improve customer experience.

Webhelp's findings chime with two recent reports which also highlighted the importance of social media for improving customer engagement.

Last month, management consultancy McKinsey polled 850 senior executives and found they regarded digital customer engagement as the top strategic priority among digital trends.

In another report released in June, Amdocs, a global provider of customer experience systems, said half of customers had tried to use social media to communicate with their service provider, yet three-quarters never received a response or resolution, forcing 80% to ring their call centre.

Data sourced from Webhelp UK, McKinsey, Amdocs; additional content by Warc