March 21, 2002, 12:00 AM

Retailers’ e-mail response time dropped 37% from Q3 to Q4, Giga reports

Retailers’ average response time to e-mail inquiries dropped to 12 hours in Q4 from 19 hours in Q3, says Giga. The speediest half of retailers replied within an average five hours, raising consumers’ expectations as well as the bar for other retailers.

Retailers are responding faster to consumers online, according to recent research by Giga Information Group Inc. A study of 50 top retail sties showed significant improvement in e-mail support response times in the fourth quarter over the previous quarter, with the average time to respond to a customer’s e-mail query dropping 37% to 12 hours from 19 hours.

The improvement in response time raises the bar for all retailers, according to Giga. In Q4 results, the response time required for a retailer to rank in the top 50% of speediest responders dropped 62% to five hours from 13 hours the previous quarter. According to Giga, that means the best are getting better and the laggards are getting worse by comparison.

“If top companies maintain this level of service, customer satisfaction with online retailers should improve dramatically and help fuel growth in this segment in 2002,” says Steve Telleen, vice president of Giga`s Web Site ScoreCard Service.

Based on its findings, Giga recommends that e-retailers set the goal of answering all e-mail requests in five hours or less and warning customers of any possible delays in response times. Gig also recommends that e-retailers identify and actively manage categories of customer queries whose resolution consistently exceeds the five-hour limit, and that they implement technology solutions that support self-service to lower the number of inquiries requiring support service.

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