Companies 'ignore email complaints'

Australian research suggests that about half of complaints emailed to companies fail to be addressed

If you ever want raise a complaint with a company, recent research into corporate behaviour online suggests email may not be the way to go about it.

Melbourne-based online benchmarking company Global Reviews found during a recent research exercise that 50 percent of complaints that it sent to companies via email were "either not addressed or ignored altogether".

In contrast, Global Reviews director, Adir Shiffman, said that businesses were very efficient when it came to handling sales enquiries over the same contact medium.

Schiffman conceded that while the research finding may only have confirmed what many consumers might have expected intuitively, however, he said the inconsistency was noteworthy.

And inconsistency persisted not only within companies but also across companies, according to Schiffman.

Globa Reviews examined 20 enterprises well known in the Australian market including Holden, Qantas, NIB and Westpac and rated their email customer service offerings.

Schiffman said that while some companies appeared uninterested in addressing email complaints, others, such as car rental service Hertz, went out of their way to answer email queries. Perhaps shaving a little off its postage budget, Hertz replied to the test complaints with signed letters in an electronic format that specifically addressed the customer concern raised.

Also inconsistent was any link between the companies' apparent preparedness to accept complaints on their Web sites and the way their service was rated.

"There was no correlation between the presences of that [service] on their Web site and the quality of responses to complaints," said Shiffman.

In keeping with the theme, Shiffman noted that companies were not treating new and old channels of complaint, such as phone lines, equally. Email response times varied from minutes to nearly five days.

Shiffman said companies need to take more time to ensure they're offering consumers consistent level of customer experience across all the contact points they offer.

Overall the group's average score was, according to Global Reviews, relatively low at 48 percent.

The insurance industry put in the best email customer service performance with an average score of 62 percent, narrowly beating banks (55 percent). The next best performer was the utility industry (40 percent) which scored a fraction higher than tourism (39 percent).

For more coverage on ZDNet Australia, click here.