May 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

Most consumers are dissatisfied with responses to e-mail questions

Most online users have sent an e-mail question to a corporate web site in the past 12 months but less than one in five was satisfied with the experience, Terry Golesworthy, president of the Customer Respect Group, will tell the IR2006 conference.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

The vast majority of online users have sent at least one e-mail question to a corporate web site in the past 12 months but less than one in five was satisfied with the experience, says Terry Golesworthy president of the Customer Respect Group.

While there are improvements in retailers’ handling of e-mail messages, there still is a gap between customers’ expectations and retailers’ responses, Golesworthy says. In evaluations of more than 100 retail web sites, the Customer Respect Group found that 13% of all e-mails to retailers are ignored, compared with 22% in 2004.

About one-third of all e-mails missed the 24-hour turnaround target, compared with 60% in 2004. Only two-thirds of responses were considered helpful, up from 55% in 2004.

In addition, the survey found that only 25% of responses were personalized and only 15% provided a feedback option for a continued dialog.

By giving customers’ e-mail messages short shrift, retailers risk alienating shoppers, according to Golesworthy. Over half of consumers responding to the survey said that the quality of e-mail responses is a major indicator of the ongoing customer service they might expect. More than half said a poor web site experience has a major impact on their overall view of the company, product and brands.

Golesworthy is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition June 5-7 in Chicago. He will discuss results of the survey in a session entitled “Lost in Cyberspace: Do E-Retailers Just Ignore E-Mail?” at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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