April 12, 2005, 12:00 AM

E-mail response times get worse, annual survey shows

Only 42% of 38 companies tested with e-mail requests responded within 24 hours; 36% of companies did not respond at all, says an annual survey just out from consultants Hornstein Associates.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

Online businesses have gotten worse at responding to e-mail requests from web sites in the last three years, according to the 2005 edition of an annual survey just out from consultants Hornstein Associates. Only 42% of 38 companies tested with e-mail requests responded within 24 hours, the survey says. In 2002, 63% responded within 24 hours. In addition, 36% of companies did not respond at all, the Hornstein survey says.

In each of the past four years, the Hornstein group has sent an e-mail to 38 online companies asking: ” What is your corporate policy regarding the turnaround time for e-mails addressed to customer service?”

"Almost everyone with computer access sends an e-mail inquiry to a company at some time, and most frequently, with a customer service-type request. It`s crazy that 36% of companies simply did not respond at all," says Scott Hornstein, head of the company. "Marketers are eroding trust and respect among customers, which translates into lost long term revenue potential."

Among the sites that Hornstein tested are IBM, Dell, Apple, Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com;, American Airlines, L.L. Bean and the Direct Marketing Association.

Other research that Hornstein Associates conducted shows that customers expect an e-mail reply within 24 hours. "Marketers must meet customers` expectations for e-mail responsiveness," Hornstein says. "It`s difficult, but not impossible. Respond within 24 hours, even if it`s to say you`re delayed."

The State of Connecticut had the fastest response rate at 3 minutes, while the IRS responded at 19 minutes. Gateway and L.L. Bean were tied for third, each responding in about an hour.

 

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