February 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Is anybody out there?

77% of respondents to a new survey say they would switch to a competitor if a web site does not provide ways to communicate, such as a phone number, e-mail address or live chat. And consumers won`t spend much time looking for contact information.

If a prospective customer cannot find ways to get in touch with a business via its web site, that business is setting itself up to lose customers. 77% of respondents to a new survey say they would switch to a competitor if a business’s web site does not provide ways to communicate, such as a phone number, e-mail address or live chat, according to “Website Communication Survey,” conducted in November by MaCorr Research and sponsored by web hosting firm 1&1 Internet Inc.

“Consumers value an approachable and easily accessible business. They place high expectations on businesses to provide a means of communication,” says Andreas Gauger, chairman of 1&1 Internet.

85% of the 1,025 respondents cite the ability to contact a business as the most important aspect of using a company’s web site. 78% are irritated when unable to find a way to communicate on a business’s web site; 48% have felt angry to the degree they tell someone about the failure. 91% are most irritated when unable to find a contact phone number, and 82% when unable to find a contact e-mail address.

Conversely, businesses benefit when they provide easy access via their web sites. After successfully contacting a business, 97% of survey respondents say they would visit the web site again and use the business in the future; 93% say they would use the business more frequently, 92% would recommend the business to others and 85% would bookmark the site, the survey finds.

However, 72% of survey respondents say they will spend less than three minutes searching for contact information on a web site before switching to another site.

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