Online retailers have no idea about customer relationship management (CRM), according to a survey of the world's top 50 consumer e-tail sites by analyst Gartner.
"CRM on e-tail sites amounts to little more than lip service" is Gartner's summary, as the survey, the eTail eService Functionality Study, found only 10 per cent of sites allow customers to track their enquiries through to resolution.
Customer service is a scarce commodity on the Internet as even the most popular e-tail sites fail to rate as excellent, or even good, when it comes to service on the Web.
"e-tailers are annoying Web customers at a time when brand loyalty is the Holy Grail," said Gartner analyst Carol Ferrara.
Although Gartner estimates that with the right processes, retailers can achieve up to 15 per cent of their revenue from the Internet, most sites achieve only average results in keeping customers happy.
Half of the retailers surveyed in the study were traditional retailers with online operations, the other half were pure-play e-tailers. Virtual stores are more adept at CRM than their bricks-and-clicks counterparts, according to analysts.
"It's easier to build CRM entirely on the Web with no offline component," Ferrara said. "Traditional retailers that are integrating the offline and online CRM must master their databases and streams to stay with their customers as they move between selling channels."
Gartner found only 6 per cent of sites offered a feature asking the retailer to call the customer and while around 24 per cent of sites have instant messaging, only 28 per cent will even acknowledge that an e-mail enquiry was received. However, 90 per cent of sites steered customers to a Frequently Asked Questions section - a figure which indicates a static approach to online service, according to the analyst.
"Marketers are not integrating the Web site with the call centre. Customers who are disappointed at the Web site pick up the phone only to inform again all of their basic information to a representative who is blind to their Web activities and transactions."