As more products and companies go digital we’ve seen support quality diverge: either customers can rely on good service in a timely manner, or they are left out in the cold. In the world of apps, it seems the latter situation is increasingly common.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing more of a reliance on FAQs, canned email responses and other tactics that divert customers without providing a solid end-to-end experience. This emphasis on efficiency, especially within software, means companies are moving their attention away from central aspects of customer service and high customer satisfaction: responsiveness, helpfulness,and personalization. Just because products are digital and “lean,” does not mean these key pillars should be forgotten.

We’ve seen so much data around poor support in apps, but wanted to see it for ourselves. So my team at decided to run a survey in which we sent a support inquiry to the top 100 Android apps on the Google Play store, asking if their app would support the latest Samsung Galaxy phone. Simple, right? Well… not exactly.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Good Customer Service Is Your Most Important Metric

Seventyone percent of Android apps never responded to a simple customer question.

Our survey found only 29 of top 100 Android apps were able to respond to even the most basic question. Inversely, we did not even hear back from 71 percent of apps. It took an average of 25 hours for companies to respond to an easy yes or no question.

Only one app, called KodiTV, responded to the survey quickly (within three minutes). They were also the only company to use chat for support. The next group of apps all took around three hours to answer our question. These included apps from Amazon, Chase and Ubisoft. That’s not bad, so kudos to these companies. Even the IRS went above and beyond when we sent them a question about the IRS2Go app, responding with a personalized message.

The bottom line is, if the IRS can provide decent customer service in a timely manner, then so should most apps.

Related: Steal These 4 Proven Customer-Retention Strategies

iOS apps do better … but not by much.

We wanted to dive in a little deeper, so we then sent a similar survey about the iPhone 8 to the top 25 free iOS apps across three verticals: gaming, travel, and ecommerce.

In gaming, we found 52 percent of apps responded to the question and the average response time was a few hours better at around 22 hours. One interesting statistic we found was that companies using in-app chat had a 65 percent higher response rate, compared to companies using email to answer the question. In other words, companies using in-app chat were over 4X as likely to answer the customer.

Although overall support was less than stellar, one company in particular stood out as having a particularly ineffective system. EA required our team to create an EA account and then send an email, requiring the user to use a channel outside of the app. EA replied to the customer inquiry via email three days later claiming to have resolved the ticket … without ever answering the question.

Ecommerce apps had the exact same response rate as gaming apps (52 percent), and a similar 60 percent increase in response rate between chat and email-based channels. Noticing a pattern? So were we.

In travel, things got ugly. Like with Android apps, 68 percent of apps never responded. Once again, though, there was a striking difference between chat-based offerings and email. The companies using Facebook Messenger for customer communication responded about two-thirds of the time, whereas companies relying on email responded 22 percent of the time.

Related: 25 Tips for Earning Customer Loyalty

Use chat for better customer experience results.

We started this series of surveys to get a better sense of where the customer experience was breaking down for most apps. I was struck by how quickly we found the culprit: email.

Across both Android and iOS, and across the three verticals we tested, we found that companies using chat for customer service were far more responsive, overall, than those relying on email. For whatever reason, emails are more likely to go unanswered or answered days later. This is not to say all companies that used email provided poor support — only that they had a higher likelihood of letting inquiries slip through the cracks.

Of course, this could be a chicken-and-egg scenario: are app companies using chat-based options because they are more devoted to great customer experience outcomes? Or is chat the cause of their success? Like most things, it’s probably a little bit of both. But, for now, I think it’s safe to say that chat is more conducive to providing great support, and that’s something we need a little more of in the world of apps.

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