Indian Companies Fall Flat Online
India wears the crown as the most popular outsourcing destination, with its staggeringly low labor costs and qualified agent pool. According to a recent study, "The Customer Responsiveness Letdown," by New Delhi-based research firm Juxt Consult, however, more than half the country's leading companies stumble when it comes to handling online customer queries.
The study focuses on the largest Indian companies (in addition to multinational companies with a strong presence in India), and reports that when Juxt Consult analysts acting as customers made email inquiries, 14 percent of email address/forms either bounced back or displayed errors. Only 32 percent of the companies responded satisfactorily, and even more disturbing, 58 percent of the companies did not respond at all. M. Sandeep, principal analyst, contends that the problem centers on the struggle to integrate multiple channels, including phone, the Web, and email, not on being insensitive to customer needs. "The Indian corporates [have] yet to realize the immense potential of the Internet to provide customer support, both through self-help tools and assisted ones," he says. But, "the Indian marketers have only recently awakened to the interactive space and hence, one needs to discount for the early stages of their learning curve."
Among the verticals included in the study telecom fared the best--75 percent of companies within that industry respond to online queries, followed by the oil and gas industry, with 66.7 percent. "The telecom sector in India is undergoing a dramatic change since the past 5 years in terms of price, accessibility of the services, and a phenomenally expanding user base. Therefore, they are expected to invest considerably in customer acquisition and relationship tools," Sandeep says. "The fact that the industry is also closely linked with the new media--most telecom companies in India also are ISPs--makes it a likely candidate to better understand the potential of the medium." The pharmaceutical industry had the poorest showing, with only 27.3 percent of companies responding to online queries. The automobile industry fared just slightly better. The core of the automobile industry's business relies on customer contact and its ability to drive traffic into its dealerships, but only 28.6 percent of companies responded to online customer inquiries. "Automotive was a disappointment, specially because all queries were sent with a high purchase intent, and this sector remains one of the top 10 advertisers on TV and print."
Companies invest significantly in crafting a Web presence, but study results suggest that maintaining that presence is not a priority. "With the dot-com boom companies were quick to identify the Net as a vehicle to drive awareness and hence, almost scuttled to build a Web presence," Sandeep says. "What marketers now need to realize is that Internet presence means more than having an 'information' Web site. It is a part of the relationship engagement with a customer--where you can follow him across the customer life cycle...with the tremendous advantage of minimum costs."
Sandeep says none of the top companies seem to have invested in either Web-based self-help tools or in agent-assisted technologies like text chat, chat over VoIP, and cobrowsing, but he urges companies to consider these technologies. "Companies need to mature up to the technology which in turn shall further the level of confidence of the average Indian consumer with the new media."
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