Too much customer contact can hurt business

July 15, 2011

Research conducted by an SMU marketing professor and two associates reveals that businesses can go too far when trying to keep in touch with customers, who are easily driven away by too many emails, phone calls and mailers.

A three-year study by University of California at Riverside Professor Andrea Godfrey, Boston College Professor Kathleen Seiders and Southern Methodist University Professor Glenn Voss found there is an “ideal level” at which businesses should communicate with clients, and once that's exceeded, the risk of losing them increases considerably.

The trio's findings are detailed in a report, “Enough Is Enough: The Fine Line in Executing Multichannel Relational Communication,” that appears in this month's edition of the Journal of Marketing.

The scholars based their research on the records of an auto dealership, gauging nearly 1,200 customers' reactions to , emails and mailings from the enterprise.

According to Godfrey, she and her colleagues were surprised to find that traditional “snail” mail was generally the most effective means of contacting customers, who were less annoyed by it than too many emails and calls.

The research showed that, over a three-month period, people were willing to tolerate three phone calls before they reacted negatively. If all the contact was by , customers were OK with four, but no more. And if they received information via the postal service only, up to 10 mailings were fine without eliciting a negative response.

The figures change if a business utilizes more than one communication channel for outreach.

According to Godfrey, the ideal number of email contacts appears to be five when one mailer is also sent. However, customers often become irritated after three emails when a business makes an equal number of phone calls over the same period of time.

Negative customer reactions mean less spending, according to the researchers.

Explore further: Happy or unhappy, the customer is always right

More information: Journal of Marketing, Volume 75, Number 4, July 2011

Related Stories

Happy or unhappy, the customer is always right

January 13, 2010

( -- Understanding their dissatisfied customers and acting on the knowledge will help companies save money and reshape the way they conduct business, according to research by Heidi Kevoe Feldman, an assistant ...

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 15, 2011
About once every 2 months for me, or I unsub
1 / 5 (1) Jul 16, 2011
Too much customer contact can hurt business
No! Who would'a thunk it? Surely not

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.