READING: UK retailers are failing to offer consistent information and service across multiple channels according to a new study which found that just 13% provided similar answers to the same question.

For its Multichannel Customer Experience Study, Eptica, a supplier of customer interaction management software, evaluated 40 leading UK retailers – split between the four sectors of food & wine, consumer electronics, entertainment and fashion – measuring them on their ability to provide answers to ten routine questions via the web as well as their speed and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter and web chat.

As well as an inability to deliver the same response across channels there were some startling differences in the timing of replies, as Eptica reported one electronics retailer answering an email in seven minutes but taking 76 hours to reply to the same question on Twitter.

"The retail sector has been revolutionised by the expansion of digital channels, meaning retailers have to answer more questions, across more channels, than ever before," said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-founder, Eptica. "However, our study shows that, while some retailers are leading the way, many are failing to deliver fast, accurate responses and consistency across channels."

Email was the best performing channel for retail service, with 63% of questions answered, ahead of websites, which successfully provided answers to 60% of routine queries. Twitter brought up the rear, with just 33% of queries answered effectively.

Social media is often seen as being a good customer service platform and 83% of the retailers in the sample were on Twitter, but their responses varied widely, with fashion retailers by far the best at answering questions – 70% were answered and 65% were successful. Entertainment retailers were poor performers in this regard, with just 10% tweets answered, although, on the upside, all of these were successful.

The greatest disparity was evident in food & wine, where 60% of tweet were answered but just 25% were answered successfully.

The average Twitter response time was 13 hours 10 minutes, but removing the outlier already mentioned halved this figure to 6 hours 44 minutes.

There is huge value in social media for those brands that can get customer service right. Joanna Howard, Head of Customer Service at BT, explained to a conference last year how the UK telecoms business had used social media – and especially Twitter – to save £2m a year, reducing churn and engaging with millions of users across the country.

Data sourced from RealWire; additional content by Warc staff