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E-mail slowness impacts customer satisfaction

11th Jul 2007
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Slow response to customer e-mails can be hugely damaging to UK businesses, according to a survey from internet provider FastHosts.

A survey of 1,300 British consumers revealed that a slow response to a customer's e-mail enquiry will negatively affect business image and directly lead 89 percent of consumers to choose a competitor.

Some 78 percent of consumers surveyed have been disappointed by a slow response to e-mail, with the average consumer sending three emails before receiving a satisfactory response. A further survey of 500 UK small businesses found that one in five UK SMEs had received a complaint specifically about their slow approach to e-mail, and 56 percent had no policy in place concerning their response time.

Waiting too long for a response to an enquiry is consumers biggest gripe when e-mailing a business, with some 78 percent of consumers having suffered. Unhelpful automated replies saw 64 percent of consumers affected and 40 percent had found out-of-date e-mail addresses.

The research also revealed that e-mail response time directly affects brand loyalty and a consumer's purchasing decision. Over 90 percent of consumers admitted to being more brand-loyal and more likely to increase spend with a company who responded swiftly to their e-mail enquiry.

The average British consumer is only willing to wait up to 24 hours for a reply, with one in five consumers (19 percent) abandoning their enquiry after only 12 hours. Women are prepared to wait longer, with 12 percent prepared to wait up to a week, compared with only 7 percent of men.

Mark Jeffries, CTO Fasthosts Internet Ltd, commented: "It is clear that businesses of all sizes can incur real damage by responding slowly to customer e-mails. Whilst most recognise that e-mail is an important form of communication with their market, the majority remain misinformed about the kind of effects that poor e-mail practices can have on their business".

Alarmingly, two thirds of businesses surveyed (66 percent) had no training at all on important e-mail issues such as e-mail management techniques, e-mail etiquette, document management or data retention law. Some 55 percent provided no formal training to their employees on the day-to-day use of their e-mail system.

Meanwhile research from Avaya has found that customer service and unified communications (UC) are key to the success of today's British companies. Over 85 percent of the respondents listed that the ability to drive higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty through improvement in customer service was fundamental. While 82 percent felt that enabling effective event or incident response together with making business processes more efficient was one of the main drivers to move to a unified communications network.

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