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Consumer electronics companies deliver shocking web customer service

Record numbers of online shoppers looking for the best electronics and gadget buys are being let down by inadequate information and customer service provided online, according to a website customer service study from eService provider Transversal.

Nearly three quarters (70 per cent) of routine customer service and product questions are not being answered on leading consumer electronic websites.

Digital TVs, games consoles, GPS units, cameras and DVD players top the Christmas shopping lists and consumer electronics sales have already reached a record £16.8 billion.

The web is used as a primary research tool by the majority of consumers even if the final purchase isn't made online. The inability to get fast, accurate information online will lose sales to competitors and increase costs as frustrated gadget buyers call or email contact centres.

Questions that failed to elicit an answer included; "What should I do if my unit requires service or repair?" making UK companies appear unconcerned with the fate of products and customers after a transaction has been made.

The frustration continues for customers forced to refer to other channels for information. On average, it took 35 hours for the ten consumer electronics manufacturers surveyed to respond to a simple email.

One company took six days to respond to a query and then failed to answer the question. This would result in last minute Christmas shoppers not getting answers until well into the New Year.

In addition, a fifth of companies shot themselves in the foot by refusing to answer questions from new customers, therefore, losing themselves potential Christmas sales.

The research also revealed a startling inconsistency between different websites as many companies are able to respond quickly to email, but the sector is let down by sites which comprehensively fail the inquisitive consumer.

Additionally, while many consumer electronics companies have invested in Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) pages and customer search facilities, they are simply not providing the answers that consumers are looking for.

The research was part of Transversal's annual survey of 100 leading organisations in the retail, banking, insurance, consumer electronics, utility and telecoms sectors. It aimed to measure online customer service by searching for answers to common sector-specific questions, both on websites and via email.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.