Some of the world's leading companies can't be contacted via the internet or are leaving customers waiting weeks for a response, according to a survey published this week.
More than 40 per cent of leading UK and US public companies failed to provide an effective online customer response when asked for basic information by marketing consultant Rainier. Some websites took several weeks to respond, while some didn't respond at all.
Rainier's second Web-Index study surveyed the UK's FTSE 100 companies and the Fortune 100 in the US over a period of 100 days. The index aimed to measure the effectiveness of organisations' internet communication strategies.
Rainier contacted the companies via short emails asking for basic information such as investor details or annual company reports. All companies were contacted at the start of March with a follow-up attempt made by the middle of March if a response had not been received. Of the FTSE 100 companies, 71 could be contacted by email through their website.
The study found that 45 of the 100 FTSE companies responded within two days, 11 took more than two days and 15 failed to respond to multiple requests through their website. The most responsive companies included National Power, which took four minutes to respond, and Kingston Communications, which took 12 minutes.
The least responsive companies included Colt Telecom, which took 27 days to respond and Abbey National, which took 14 days. However, companies such as Telewest, Energis and the Bank of Scotland failed to respond at all.
"Companies need to take the web response process more seriously and integrate it fully into their marketing strategy," said a Rainier spokesman. "The marketing department of a company will often come up with the glitzy ideas for receiving enquiries, while the IT department sorts the plumbing, but the responsibility for who handles the response often gets forgotten."
Large companies focus too much on the content and the look and feel of a site without considering its integration with existing customer response systems, said Rainier. Businesses need to make sure they have dedicated resources for answering company emails 24 hours a day, the consultant added.
"It is vital that internet response capabilities are just as good as the phone, fax or letter," said the spokesman.
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