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CRM Survey highlights companies' failure to communicate with online


A recent seminar report carried out by  Opus 1to1, a division of The Opus Group has shown that companies are under-utilising their web sites to engage the customers in even simple dialogue let alone e-commerce.  Equally shocking has been the demonstration that companies that do allow customer interaction via the web, usually fail to handle it properly. 

The seminar that fueled the report was chaired by Opus 1to1's Adrian Moss, and the comments quoted here are taken from his summary. 

“The objective of the survey was to see how far everyone’s web sites had been integrated into the marketing communication process and how well potential customer’s enquiries are handled. When looking at the summary [. . . ] remember the old adage ‘ The first impressions are the most important.’  Many potential customers make value judgements on companies and products based on their interaction. The web site is often the first point of contact for a prospective customer.” 

The report highlights that out of 54 sites visited over 35% had no mechanism for customers to register, begging the question as to why spend time and money on a site if no attempt is made to start a dialogue with customers? 

Of the 39 web sites with a customer registration form, 2 kept returning error messages.  Although in spite of this, one somehow managed to register an application as the group subsequently received an information pack.  Although not quite equally damning this inconsistency does not help to promote the image of a company. 

Only 54% of the sites, where an application for registration was made,  responded with either an e-mail acknowledgement, phone call or posted information pack.  The remaining 46% gave no response.  As the seminar summary points out, “you may be one of only two suppliers on the shortlist. Failure to even respond to the customer may mean you lose the business before you even get going”. 

On the positive side, all the companies that did respond did so within 48 hours of the initial enquiry. However eight of the companies that automatically acknowledged a registration by e-mail had no follow up. This once again suggests a waste of available resources.  In this case it would appear to be due to a result of insufficient administration facilities unable to support the information request mechanisms. 

If by implication a promise of service is broken in the previous example the report  showed a worse breach of contract with the explicit breaking of a promise.   One company that responded with an e-mail to say that an information pack would be supplied within in two days, had still not done so after two weeks.  Once again the report summary was keen to express the importance of delivering on one’s word.  “Why risk setting customer expectations that you cannot meet? Why not make the message read  ‘You will the get the information in a few days’ and then make sure they do!”  Furthermore one company responded in German adding to an impression that web sight leads are not being taken seriously enough. 

Of the companies that did respond only 6 included a letter with their information pack effectively discontinuing the sales process.  Of these six letters, one included a thank you, ‘for calling our telephone centre’, when no such call had been made. 

This inconsistency and under utilization was continued.  An A5 brochure was sent by second class post and another company put a 111-page product catalogue and 13 additional product brochures in one pack. The postage on the second pack was £3.05 but the company failed to include a covering letter. After two weeks neither company had followed up.  Of this the report summary had this to say:

“Consider what impact your response will have. Too cheap and it may put prospective customers off. Too expensive and you maybe wasting money. The second company should consider telephone pre-qualification or a revised information pack rather than spending in excess of £6 per information pack!” 

Of the 20 companies that initially responded, only 2 of  these, or their authorised resellers, made the effort to follow up.  Out of 37 companies successfully contacted only 12 actually phoned or sent an information pack:  a 32% follow-up rate.  Of these 12 only 2 (5% of 37) followed up to check that the information had been received and to qualify further interest. 

Adria Moss’s final comment in his summary referred to the most expensive response pack.   This consisted of two 1100 page component catalogues delivered by courier. The cost of this was £35 compared to the cheapest which was 35p.  As he points out with regard to the former, “They could have tele-qualified the lead cheaper.”

Obviously there would appear to be space for improvement.  Perhaps Moss’s analogy is most revealing: “It proves something we are always saying to clients. CRM systems work best when the processes and culture supports it. Reminds me of many of the diet/keep fit books and magazines that are sold. You have to put the effort in to make it work.”


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