January 17, 2002, 12:00 AM

Communication still lags at e-retail sites, says consultants’ survey

While e-retailers are getting better at post-order confirmations and shipping notices, they still fall short in responding to customer inquiries. For instance, 18% of sites never responded to e-mail questions from researchers of the e-tailing group.

 

Online retailers are getting better at keeping customers informed about the status of their orders, but still lag in replying to customers’ inquiries, reports the latest Mystery Shopping Scan from Chicago-based consultants the e-tailing group inc. The survey evaluates 100 shopping sites quarterly. In the fourth quarter of last year, the survey found that 80% of sites e-mailed shipping confirmation to customers, up from 54% a year earlier. 98% of site’s sent a post-order e-mail confirmation of the order, up from 92% a year ago.

But performance was not nearly as good when researchers had questions about products or the site. For starters, only 82 sites responded to the inquiry and only three-fourths of those answered the questions correctly. Three-fourths of the responding sites answered with a personal e-mail, the balance used an auto-response, the e-tailing group says.

But even with the right answer, many sites still have some improving to do. The average response time to an e-mail query was 21 hours, up a full 50% from the year earlier average of 14 hours. The e-tailing group recommends telling customers a projected response time as that establishes expectations in the customer’s mind.

The e-tailing group’s survey also reported that live chat was available at 23 sites, although it was not functional at four of those sites. At the remaining 19, questions were answered in an average of 7 minutes.

 

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