Jupiter: Poor customer service hurting B-to-B

Business-to-business Web sites are not using Internet technology to its best advantage, and run the risk of alienating potential buyers, according to a new survey by Jupiter Media Metrix Inc.

While 96 percent of business-to-business suppliers tracked by a recent Jupiter Web Track Data survey offer e-mail customer support on their Web sites, 29 percent did not respond to basic customer service inquiries at all. A summary of the survey's results was published Wednesday by Jupiter. The survey reported that only 41 percent of the B-to-B sites polled responded to queries within six hours, but half of that group failed to offer an accurate resolution to the inquiries.

The numbers are based on a Jupiter Web Track Data survey conducted in February, polling a total of 51 companies such as Johnson & Johnson, VerticalNet Inc., Onvia Inc. and Dow Chemical Co.

E-mail customer support is not the only area in which online B-to-B companies are faltering, according to Jupiter. In online self-service, for example, only 2 percent of B-to-B sites have an easy-to-search knowledge base for their customers. Though 65 percent of the sites offer some sort of customer self-service, generally these type of offerings are nothing more than "frequently asked question" pages, Jupiter reports.

Sixty-seven percent of the sites offer toll-free phone lines on their Web, but the less costly and more effective text-chat service is provided only by 4 percent.

Although online business to business commerce currently continues to grow, it is a crucial time for B-to-B sites to invest in more cost-effective and efficient services for buyers, or they run the risk of having buyers revert to traditional purchasing methods, such as telephone-based contact, according to David Daniels, a Jupiter analyst.

In fact, nearly 50 percent of business-to-business buyers do not turn to the Web for their purchases because they don't trust online suppliers, noted Daniels, citing Jupiter data.

More analysis on the latest Jupiter customer relationship management research will be presented at Jupiter's Ground Zero 5 conference, which will be held next week in Boston.

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