Half of top Web sites offer lousy service

Nearly half of the top-ranked Internet sites are woefully lacking when it comes to customer service, a new report maintains. Jupiter Communications LLC said 42% of 125 major sites -- under the categories of content, consumer brands, travel, retail and financial services -- either didn't answer customer email for at least five days, didn't respond at all or didn't even bother to list an e-mail contact.

Nearly half of the top-ranked Internet sites are woefully lacking when it comes to customer service, a new report maintains.

Jupiter Communications LLC said 42% of 125 major sites -- under the categories of content, consumer brands, travel, retail and financial services -- either didn't answer customer email for at least five days, didn't respond at all or didn't even bother to list an email contact.

The report, released says these sites are "ignoring the opportunity to communicate with existing and potential customers, discouraging brand loyalty and opting out of a user-initiated, one-to-one relationship by not offering, delaying or eliminating responses to e-mail."

Jupiter, in New York and London, said retail shopping sites scored the best, with 54% taking less than 24 hours to respond to consumer inquiries. On the other hand, 19% of travel-related sites either took at least three days or never responded to email.

The company says the data indicates many sites are simply unable to keep abreast of the heavy flow of user questions.

"Answering thousands of questions per month is an enormous challenge for sites offering complex products and services, especially if they never had a traditional call center," Ken Allard, group director of Jupiter's site operation strategies, said in a statement.

"Yet companies that delay responses to user questions instantly lose a significant degree of credibility and user loyalty," Allard said. "And not responding perpetuates the consumer notion that using the Web site is not a reliable method of doing business with that company."

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