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Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

Is your org gettin' it?

One way to judge whether a company is getting the whole Internet thing is how they handle electronic customer service. I’ve seen studies of this over the years and not one has been especially encouraging.

The newest report is from The Customer Respect Group. It looked at financial services companies, but the results are similar to other markets. Here are some of those results:

  • one out of five inquiries never receives a reply.
  • a third receive messages that are deemed unhelpful, often involving canned text and stock answers directing users to the Web site.
  • 31 percent of firms did not respond consistently or did not respond at all to online inquiries resulting in nearly 20 percent of all online inquiries being ignored.
  • only 47 percent were answered within a day of being sent.

Studies consistently show that users expect an answer in less than one day. Many of the best companies (Amazon, Dell, etc.) are responding in four hours.

Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, makes a great point that we need to consider, since it can greatly impact our organization’s future:

Those that ignore online inquiries are alienating consumers – especially young “affluents,” the 24- to 33-year-olds earning $75,000 or above who are the heaviest Internet users (and most likely to be asking the questions). In fact, our research indicates that 70 percent of consumers go to a competitor’s site if they don’t receive a timely response to an online inquiry. And losing those customers is a faux pas few companies can afford.

Who is the digital receptionist in your organization? This is a critical position – someone who can handle any requests by email or site form submission (and IM, if you use it). This person must be great with people and know the organization inside and out, to know where to forward emails.

We had a great one at YS – Leslie. She did it for over nine years, starting in 1995! The Queen of Digi-ceptionists!

Check out the free report Ten Rules of Online Customer Respect (PDF)

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