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March 27, 2006

Ignoring E-Mail Is A Sure Way To Lose Business

Courtesy of

Companies aren't doing a good job of handling the onslaught of E-mail messages coming from customers.

Among Web sites that offered E-mail as a customer service option last year, 39% took three days or longer to reply--or didn't respond at all, according to a new JupiterResearch report. That compares with 28% in 2000.

Jupiter blames the increase on the growing volume of E-mail and the failure to buy the right technology to manage it. Rather than buy packaged applications built specifically for handling E-mail from visitors to Web sites, companies are opting to build their own or make do with limited functionality in other business apps to try to save money, says JupiterResearch analyst Zachary McGeary.

Homegrown applications usually handle less E-mail volume than packaged software and require as much as 39% more staff time, says McGeary, who wrote the report. Companies end up spending as much for homegrown applications without getting better perform-ance. "It's a bad decision," McGeary says. "They're spending money in the wrong places."

E-mail is tough to manage, but ignored customers tend to do their business elsewhere. "Eighty-five percent of online consumers say they would be less likely to buy from a merchant again after a poor customer experience,"McGeary says. "There's also a threat to offline sales, since 55% would be less likely to buy from the merchant offline."

Besides the damage to customer loyalty and retention, failing to respond quickly to E-mail can drive up operations costs, the report says, since customers ignored online will often phone a customer service rep.

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