Common Sense Advisory, Inc., an independent research and analysis firm, released its latest research report on corporate online communications in a global economy. Its review of the online presence of the world's top 100 most valuable brands revealed that barely half of the planet's best-known brands answer e-mail correspondence from their websites.
Silence Is Not So Golden at Corporate Websites
The study, which looked at the accuracy and response rate of eight unique messages, four in Spanish and four in English, revealed at least half of the firms didn't answer the inquiries sent in English; about a third answered the Spanish inquiries, but mostly in English. Even when they did reply, most companies failed to answer the questions that were asked, regardless of the language. The survey demonstrates that many companies haven’t yet figured how to capitalize on the internet’s ability to communicate quickly and efficiently with customers and prospects. The lower response rate for Spanish indicates that many have not yet internalized the opportunity to market to America’s Latino population.
The response and low accuracy rate percentages speak volumes about the low priority that global brands place on web-originated interactions. Their silence is expensive, because when they don’t get an answer, current customers dial expensive call centers while potential customers hurry off to competitors.
The Value of Online Communications
Websites and e-mail offer companies a direct means of communicating with their customers and prospects. These online capabilities also provide a channel to nascent markets, such as the U.S. Latino community. “Given the web’s role as the first stop on the way to a relationship with your company, you will ignore web inquiries at your own peril,” comments the report’s lead analyst, Donald A. DePalma, Ph.D. “However, our research showed that responding to prospects and customers appears to be a problem for most companies, whether the communication is in English or Spanish.”
Regardless of the value, the study revealed most companies are not prioritizing their online communications with customers and potential clients. “Companies assign low priority to web communications, “ noted DePalma. “Low overall response rates, long latencies in answering, and the small percentage of useful responses bear witness to underinvestment in online customer service.” The report found:
- Response time lag. English responses arrived anywhere from several minutes to a astonishing 14 days later. Companies that responded to the Spanish messages took between one minute and as many as 38 days to respond.
- Failure to use tools to their full or even partial potential. Most of the companies offered webforms as the way to communicate. However, inquiries submitted via a webform were no more likely to receive an answer than an e-mail sent to a posted Contact Us address.
- English gets you much further than Spanish. The greater likelihood of receiving a useful response is if the communication is in English. English’s useful responses outscore Spanish ones by two or three to one.
The findings also concluded that sixteen percent of the companies completely miss the chance for further interaction online. Sixteen percent have no way for online contact, thus making it impossible to continue a relationship beyond that first hit on the web. Another two tell visitors to pick up the phone rather than click their mouse.
Adds DePalma, "These statistics reveal and solidify the fact that companies need to be proactive in deploying the tools and resources to effectively respond to customer inquiries and train employees how to maximize the productive use of such tools. Except for not being interested in communicating with prospects and customers, there is no excuse for remaining incommunicado on the best two-way channel for communication on the planet.”