August 26, 2004, 12:00 AM

26% of retailers fail to reply to customer e-mail inquiries, study says

Although more than a quarter, or 26%, of retailers failed to respond to e-mail inquiries from customers seeking to make a purchase, the retail industry outperformed the cross-industry response rate of 41% in a recent study by Benchmark Portal.

Although more than a quarter, or 26%, of retailers failed to respond to e-mail inquiries from customers seeking to make a purchase, the retail industry outperformed the cross-industry response rate of 41% in a recent study by Benchmark Portal and sponsored by eGain Communications Corp.

The study also provided other mixtures of good and bad news for retailers. Although nearly half, or 47%, of retailers failed to respond to customer e-mails within 24 hours, they again outperformed the cross-industry rate, at 61%. But some retailers dallied longer than other companies: 9% of retailers responded within 25 to 36 hours, compared to the cross-industry rate of 8%, and 12% of retailers responded after 48 hours, compared to the cross-industry rate of 11%.

Surprisingly, 40% of online-only businesses, a category that includes online recruiters and shopping comparison sites, also failed to reply to customer e-mail inquiries. "That was surprising, because one would think that e-businesses would have a high-quality e-mail customer service," says Anand Subramaniam, vice president of marketing for eGain.

The study, which was conducted in July, also benchmarked the quality of company responses to customer e-mail inquiries. Again retailers outperformed other industries overall. Among companies that responded to customer e-mails, 35% of retailers sent e-mails rated by Benchmark Portal is being "good" at answering customers’ questions, compared to the cross-industry rate of 17%; 28% of retailers sent e-mails rated "fair," compared to the cross-industry rate of 26%; and 9% of retailers sent "poor" e-mails, compared to the cross-industry rate of 14%.

The study included 43 retailers among 287 companies contacted by Benchmark.

 

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