Turnaround time for e-mail sent to top firms is getting longer, according to Hornstein Associates. In 2007, only 33% of companies responded within 24 hours, down almost half from a high of 63% in 2002. Only half of the responding firms answered e-mail within any time period, down from 86% in 2002.

The annual survey uses a small but select sample of 49 companies, including the Financial Times‘ "World’s Most Respected Companies" and Fortune‘s "Most Admired Companies." Each is asked "What is your corporate policy regarding the turnaround time for e-mails addressed to customer service?"

Hornstein Associates founder Scott Hornstein says that e-mail response time is an Achilles heel for customer relationship management (CRM).

"Did we find the one loophole in the intricate CRM architecture?" asked Mr. Hornstein. "Did half the companies accidentally delete customer messages? The problem is not technology. What is lacking is a comprehensive strategy that starts at the top and says that the individual customer is the building block of our success and we must treat him or her as a guest in our house. Customer service is the next killer app." 

Via eMarketer