Of the 92% of web sites offering e-mail as a customer support option, only 41% acknowledge receipt of messages with automated e-mail responses, and customer satisfaction with such brands is being negatively affected, according to a report from JupiterResearch.
The report, US Customer Service and Support Metrics December 2005, found that retail companies remained relatively consistent with study results from previous years, while other industries including finance and travel showed significant decreases in auto-acknowledgement response performance.
Since 2000, the proportion of web sites meeting a 24-hour threshold for e-mail response has consistently decreased. In fact, only 45% of sites resolved e-mail enquiries within 24 hours. The most significant trend, JupiterResearch says, is that 39% of web site operators took 3 days or more to reply or, worse still, did not respond at all. The number of such web sites has grown by 7% year-on-year from 2000 to 2005.
In its report, the company pinpointed two main elements driving the unresponsiveness observed:
- The continued rise in e-mail volume, and a general failure among contact centres to invest in appropriate e-mail handling technology (having the level of automation necessary to handle e-mail in large volumes);
- The consumer's propensity to contact the call centres when e-mails go unanswered.
According to David Schatsky, senior vice president of research for JupiterResearch, "Failure to resolve requests via e-mail is driving the continued use of costly telephone services, negating any potential cost savings from handling enquiries via e-mail. The continued rise of e-mail unresponsiveness does not bode well for customer satisfaction which, perhaps ironically, is currently a top driver of investment in most customer service-related technologies."
Zachary McGeary, associate analyst for JupiterResearch, and author of the report, concluded: "Our research highlights a continued struggle among companies to master the e-mail channel. This growing segment of unresponsive companies is damaging customer loyalty and retention, and these companies must either invest in appropriate technology or deprioritise e-mail as a service touch point."