British businesses are overlooking new sales opportunities, in spite of the tough operating climate, according to a new research study undertaken by the Direct Marketing Association. The research found that a quarter of companies failed to respond to a customer enquiry via their website and that, even when prompted, 14% did not respond.
The study was carried out with the intention of testing response times and personalisation of the response. A simple email request for a catalogue or brochure was sent to 100 UK-based companies covering ten different sectors — hobbies/sport; children/nursery; clothing; food & drink; gardening; gifts; health & fitness; travel; home; and female interest catalogues. Of those companies that responded, the average response time was 3.6 days and only 34% sent a personalised response.
The sectors posting the fastest average response rates were children/nursery (2.3 days), gardening (2.4 days) and home (2.6 days). The food and drink sector was the slowest by far with an average response time of 7.6 days while the gifts sector recorded the largest number of non-respondents.
There is some good news, though — these figures are an improvement on those found in a similar survey conducted in 2005. Response times have gone from 3.9 days to 3.6 days and there has been a 14% rise in companies using personalisation over the past four years.
"Incredulous as it may seem, companies are falling at the first hurdle and turning away potential sales," says John Dyson from the DMA Response Management Council
. "It is a proven fact that a fast personalised reply results in an increase in response and conversion rates, greater customer loyalty and, as a result, a rise in sales. With budgets under more scrutiny than ever, marketers really need to extol these benefits to prove their worth. Judging from our research findings, it would seem that some companies need to go back to the drawing board and reassess their response handling."