Companies Lag in Response Time for Customer E-Mails, Jupiter Finds

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Jupiter Media Metrix yesterday reported that many businesses are failing to respond to customer e-mails in a timely manner, a practice it fears could affect that channel as a whole.


According to the Jupiter Customer Service WebTrack survey, more than half of consumers expect to resolve their customer service problems via e-mail within six hours, yet only 38 percent of companies are meeting those expectations. Further, 33 percent of businesses are taking three days to respond to inquiries, if at all.


The study found that travel companies are the least effective in responding to e-mails within six hours. This finding came one week after another Jupiter study indicated that the industry was flourishing.


Twenty-five percent of inquiries are not answered at all, the study found, with the travel industry again most likely to fail in this respect.


By contrast, retailers were the most likely industry to respond to customers' e-mail inquiries in a prompt manner, the study found.


"The increase in sites that are not responding to customer inquiries via e-mail is a signal that many companies still have not mastered e-mail customer service management," said David Daniels, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix, New York. "Inefficient e-mail handling is causing customer service representatives to spend more time assisting customers via e-mail than they could by phone -- in effect, making phone service more cost-effective for companies than e-mail."


The study also said companies' failure to respond to customer inquiries could affect customer confidence in e-mail as a channel.


"Poor e-mail customer service is driving up the costs of customer service for companies and is alienating customers," Daniels said. "When e-mail expectations are not met, customers are being forced to initiate a second contact via more costly channels, including the phone."


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