A slow response to customer-service e-mails could be extremely damaging to UK businesses, according to a survey commissioned by Fasthosts Internet.
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A survey of 1300 consumers by Tickbox revealed that a slow response to a customer's e-mail would lead to 89% of customers switching to a competitor.
More than 90% said they would be more loyal to suppliers that responded swiftly to e-mail enquiries.
As many as 78% said they had been disappointed by a slow response to e-mail, with the average consumer sending three e-mails before receiving a satisfactory response.
About 30% said they had sent more than ten e-mails about a single customer service enquiry and more than 30% said they regularly waited three days for a reply.
The research showed the average consumer was willing to wait only 24 hours for a reply, with 19% abandoning their enquiry after only 12 hours.
The second highest complaint was about receiving unhelpful automated replies, with 65% saying they had been affected by this.
The majority of e-mails from consumers to businesses involved large companies, but one in three consumers said they were disappointed by the response from smaller companies.
A further survey of 500 UK small businesses found that one in five SMEs had received a complaint specifically about their slow response to e-mails, and 56% had no policy in place concerning their response time.
Mark Jeffries, CTO at Fasthosts Internet, said, "While most [businesses] 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."