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Sales Reps, Answer Your Email!

Can you imagine a company turning away interested and ready customers? According to a 2005 study published by Benchmark Portal, many companies do just that–by ignoring inquiries they receive by email.

The study evaluated 147 small and medium-sized North American businesses in the retail, travel and hospitality, financial services, e-business, and high-tech manufacturing sectors, with annual revenues between $10 million and $250  million.

Researchers sent email messages in which they posed as customers and showed a clear intent to buy an expensive product or service.

Among the shocking results of the research:

  • Responsiveness: 51% of companies did not respond at all.

Financial services companies had the worst response record, with 72% not responding at all to the inquiry. Retail companies also did bady, with 60% not responding at all.

  • Quality of responses: 70% of companies responded inaccurately or incompletely.

Again performing horrendously, 89% of financial service companies that responded gave inaccurate or incomplete responses. High-tech manufacturing companies also performed dismally in this area, with 86% responding inaccurately or incompletely.

Do these statistics mirror your experiences? They do mine.

I recently emailed a Canadian furniture manufacturer and asked for the names of Seattle-area retailers who sold their line of couches. Although I was ready to buy, the response came several days later. It neglected to mention two Dania stores just 4 to 5 miles from my house but noted a Scan Design 15 miles away. (In Seattle traffic, this distance makes a big difference.)

I ended up buying the couch at the closest Dania, where I found the couches with no help from the manufacturer. Had I not already been sold on their couches (the only ones that would fit through the narrow door of my TV room!), I would certainly have gone elsewhere.

Is your company sending customers elsewhere? If you need help with your customer communications in email, contact EWrite, experts in online communication. I learned of the study above in EWrite’s excellent December newsletter.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.