Eight out of 10 Britons have been negatively affected after being unable to find contact details on a company website, according to new research.
A survey by web hosting firm 1& 1 Internet found that 52 per cent of consumers have felt 'angry' and 'stressed' at being unable to contact a business, and one in five have felt 'powerless' and 'desperate'.
The problem is the biggest customer service bugbear for 77 per cent of users, followed by 'holding in a telephone queue' (77 per cent), 'staff with heavy accents' (56 per cent), 'bad on-hold music' (42 per cent) and 'inflexible office hours' (40 per cent).
However, a comparative study of small firms in the UK found that 92 per cent do not offer online contact details and 42 per cent had no plans to introduce them.
Just over one in three small firms surveyed believes that there is no need to provide more online communication options as their customers are 'not interested in communicating online'.
"Our research clearly shows that struggling to contact a business from its website is a major cause of concern for consumers," said Andreas Gauger, chief executive at 1&1 Internet.
There is also a clear discrepancy between how consumers and businesses value internet-based customer service, according to the survey.
"Consumers now place a high value on the ability to talk to businesses in real time online, and businesses of all sizes need to respond to this trend or risk losing sales," said Gauger.
UK users are becoming increasingly keen on real-time live dialogue via the web, according to the survey.
The average person uses live chat and instant messaging tools three times a month, while 34 per cent of respondents chat socially or at work in real time more than 20 times a month.
However, the research indicated that just eight per cent of UK businesses pr ovide online support via live chat, forums or call-back facilities.
"Britons benefit greatly from access to support in real time and consumers and businesses have a lot to gain from developing better online relationships," concluded Gauger.
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