E-Mail Response Time Lags

E-businesses looking for a competitive edge, customer loyalty and high satisfaction scores may want to pay closer attention to their inboxes. Research is finding that e-mail response rates among online companies leaves a lot to be desired.

An August 2002 report from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) revealed that of the 227 U.S. companies that were surveyed, only 38 percent responded to e-mail within 6 hours, and 23 percent of the companies took three days or longer, or didn’t respond at all.

While the numbers don’t bode well for customer satisfaction, they are indicative of significant improvements from December 2001 when only 22 percent responded within 6 hours and a whopping 46 percent took three days or longer, or didn’t respond at all.

In August 2002, almost one-quarter (22 percent) indicated a 6 to 24 hour response time and 18 percent responded to e-mail in 2 days, compared to 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively in December 2001.

With so many technological tools available to e-businesses, one would expect that a simple auto-response acknowledgement would be a customer service standard, yet surprisingly only 36 percent were capable of sending an e-mail receipt — up slightly from 30 percent in December 2001.

Some industries were more response-capable than others, according to Jupiter:

  • Travel: this industry showed the most progress, raising the e-mail response capability rate to 50 percent in August 2002 from 21 percent in December 2001
  • Music: 65 percent of sites in August, as opposed to 50 percent last December
  • Health: 39 percent in August, compared to 26 percent in December
  • Retail: 38 percent — up from 33 percent
  • Finance: 33 percent in August, down one point from December’s measurement
  • Consumer packaged goods: stayed the same at 21 percent
  • Auto: 26 percent in August 2002, down from December 2001’s figure of 31 percent

Results from a survey by CustomerRespect.com on Fortune 100 companies revealed the same lackluster response times from e-businesses. The survey found that 83 percent of the companies that were studied did not issue an automated acknowledgement; 13 percent sent an auto-response and followed up; and 4 percent automatically responded but did not follow up.

Furthermore, the report found that 37 percent of Fortune 100 companies offered no reply to a general inquiry submitted to their Web site, despite offering either an online form or e-mail contact details for inquiries. The research revealed that the insurance sector was the most responsive to inquiries, and drug companies were the least responsive.

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