January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Live Customer Service Boosts Satisfaction

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Phone interaction with customer service has a more positive impact on Internet shopping than e-mail messages or Internet service responses, according to a survey from Internet marketing firm Harris Interactive. The firm surveyed 509 consumers, asking them why they contacted customer service, how long it took for a response and how satisfied they were. Online consumers are willing to give Internet sites up to a day to respond to their service requests, the results show. Although an immediate response is best, the report says satisfaction with customer service and likelihood to repurchase from the site remain high as long as a customer service request is handled within 24 hours. Seven out of 10 consumers whose requests were handled within 24 hours gave the sites in question a high satisfaction rating, and 80% of that group say they would shop there again. Harris Interactive says 53% of customers contact customer service for post-sales assistance, yet, more than two-thirds of inquiries about returns and delivery were not resolved within 24 hours. Clothing retailers had the best-ranked customer service (8.28) while toy retailer customers were the least-satisfied (7.20) with their customer service experience.

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