June 17, 2005, 12:00 AM

Small to medium-sized companies fall short in e-mail response, study finds

A Benchmark Portal study sponsored by eGain finds that 51% of smaller companies don’t respond to customer e-mails, versus only 41% if enterprise-scaled companies. As a group, retailers were among the least responsive.

Smaller companies are dropping the ball on responding to customer’s e-mail, even more so than enterprise-scaled companies are, a Benchmark Portal study sponsored by CRM technology provider eGain Communications Corp. has found. The study, which focused on companies with revenues of from $10 million to $250 million, determined that 51% of the surveyed companies didn’t respond to customer e-mails at all, versus 41% of the enterprise companies that Benchmark Portal surveyed last year. For the study, Benchmark Portal sent e-mail queries indicating high-value purchase intent to small to medium-sized businesses representing retail and four other industries.

70% of the smaller companies failed to respond to e-mails within 24 hours compared with 61% of enterprises. In addition to timeliness of response to the survey’s e-mailed questions, the smaller companies were rated on response quality. 70% responded with inaccurate or incomplete answers. Here, however, the smaller companies outperformed enterprises, where 83% responded with inaccurate information.

Retail`s performance didn’t lead, compared to other industries included in the survey, on either the timeliness or quality of response to customer e-mails. The retailers surveyed were among the least responsive, as a group, of any industry surveyed. 60% didn’t send any response to customer e-mails, a number exceeded only by the 72% of financial service companies that sent no response. 70% of retailers sent responses that were inaccurate or incomplete, a number exceeded by the financial services sector, where 89% of responses were inaccurate or incomplete, and in the high-tech sector, where 86% of responses were unsatisfactory.

“E-mail is a vital channel for gaining and sustaining customer interest and loyalty,” says Jon Anton, director of research for Benchmark Portal. Anton called study results “a wakeup call to the majority of North American companies who are losing business due to poor online service.”

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