Service E-Mails Get Slow Response

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Only 30 percent of retailers responded to customer service e-mails within six hours, according to a December survey by Jupiter Media Metrix, New York.


The survey of 250 retailers found that businesses struggled to keep up with the flood of service e-mails they receive as a result of the holiday shopping season. The six-hour response rate this past December is slightly better than it was during the same month in 2000 -- when only 27 percent of retailers made the six-hour mark.


According to the December 2001 survey, 33 percent of online retailers responded to e-mails within six hours, compared to only 28 percent of offline retailers. However, online retailers had a shoddier response rate overall, with 40 percent of those surveyed taking longer than three days to respond, as opposed to 28 percent of offline retailers.


In a separate November 2001 survey of approximately 2,100 consumers, 57 percent said the speed of e-mail response would affect their decision to do business with a company a second time. Some 53 percent said they would be less likely to shop at a company's offline retail store if they had a bad experience at their online store.


Issuing discounts to consumers unhappy with response rates will not be enough to prevent the majority from fleeing to a competitor, Jupiter said. Retailers should explain to customers the ways they are trying to improve customer service and allow consumers to contribute to the process by collecting their feedback and preferences.


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