With the exploitation of Twitter and other social channels, email is becoming the second-class service of the 21st Century, according to research from KANA Software, Inc.

Just as with social media, customers expect increasingly rapid and efficient responses to email enquiries, yet a survey of Call Centre Association members for KANA shows that 59 percent or organisations currently take more than eight hours, or one full working day, to provide a response.

The time delay is even greater in some businesses, with more than one quarter (26.5 percent) taking 24 hours or more to reply to customers. Slow response rates to what is ostensibly a mature communication channel second only to the phone create a risk of customer disaffection, or even defection, as well as the potential for damage to brand reputation if service delays or failings become public — an increasing risk when customers turn to social media to vent their frustration.

A recent report by social media analytics company Simply Measured revealed the average response time on Twitter was 5.1 hours, with 10 percent of companies answering within one hour.

Today, customers expect near-instant responses no matter what the issue or channel they use. Companies assume customers are shifting all their activity to social media. But, it is clear that, while customers are indeed using social media, they still want to keep using email and continue to do so in significant volume.

A further KANA study reported that the most common channel for complaining to a company was email (42 percent) followed closely by phone (36 percent), and it is predicted that email accounts will grow from 4.1 billion in 2011 to 5.1 billion in 2015.i

The KANA survey points to a link between underperformance in email management and an absence of intelligent technology solutions to automate and assign email responses and help identify responses to complex customer inquiries.

A total of 64 percent of organisations questioned currently have no system to classify and assign email, while only 40 percent have knowledge management systems that they find to be wholly effective in speeding up response times via predefined answers to common customer questions.

“Organisations must remain aware of the continued role email plays within customer service,” said Steven Thurlow, head of product strategy for KANA Software. “Social customer service is very much the ‘now,’ yet the vast majority of customers still, and will for the foreseeable future, chose to interact with organisations via email. It need not become a second-class citizen to more modern digital channels but, rather, email can fill a dedicated role within robust and highly responsive customer service strategies.”

About KANA Software

KANA understands the value of great Customer Service experiences. We know every channel through which a customer communicates with—and about—your brand. We provide on-premises and cloud solutions for large enterprises and mid-market organizations. By unifying and maintaining context for customer journeys across agent, Web, social and mobile experiences, KANA solutions have reduced handling time, increased resolution rates and improved net promoter scores (NPS) at more than 900 enterprises – including many of the Fortune 500 and more than 250 government agencies. At KANA, we help create differentiated and personalized customer experiences that count.

KANA is based in Silicon Valley, California and has offices worldwide. For more information visit www.kana.com, and follow KANA on Twitter @KANAsoftware.