E-Mail Tops Preferred Communication Means

Thanks to PRSA for publishing the following in the August 2008 issue of Tactics.

According to an Ipsos/Habeas survey, US adult Internet users want to communicate with businesses through the following means:

67% E-mail
35% US mail
34% Web site
29% Landline phone
12% Cell phone

Wow! I remember all too clearly surveys from just a few years ago that clearly showed that phone was the preferred means of contact (of course, those surveys didn’t make a distinction between land line and cell phones.) The prevailing wisdom was that person-to-person contact by telephone would never be surpassed by any other communication means. Apparently the prevailing wisdom was wrong.

I can’t help but wonder if part of this turnaround wasn’t facilitated by businesses’ insistent use of voice recognition or menu driven systems for their customer service phone lines. I know they have driven me away. I prefer almost ANY means of communication to avoid being in phone menu purgatory.

Whatever the underlying causes, there is no doubt that e-mail has become a mainstream form of communication for the majority. This means that it is time (really past time) to focus on your customer service through e-mail. Can customers find your e-mail address? Are messages answered? Are responses timely and helpful? Can recipients reply?

Please, whatever you do, don’t use automated systems to reply to your customer e-mail inquiries. (An initial autoreply to acknowledge receipt of the message and provide a time frame for a response is fine.) I may just have to turn to smoke signals if that happens…