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RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The ideal level of communication between a business and its customers during a three-month period is three contacts for telephone, between three and four for e-mail and between nine and 10 for snail mail, according to a new research paper appearing in the July issue of the Journal of Marketing.
"We probably need to rethink the idea that to have a strong relationship with customers, we need to be communicating with them all the time," said Andrea Godfrey, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of California, Riverside, who co-authored the paper with Kathleen Seiders, an associate professor of marketing at Boston College and Glenn B. Voss, an associate professor of marketing at Southern Methodist University. Their research studied auto dealerships, but the results can be easily extrapolated to many other business, such as convenience stores.
The three professors examined 1,162 surveys filled out by customers of an auto dealership. Godfrey was especially surprised that traditional mail was still an effective way to communicate with customers. Customers tolerated snail mail twice as much as other communication methods. She believes the reason is customers think traditional mail is less intrusive than phone calls or e-mails.
Once the ideal level of communication is reached, the researchers said any additional communication "generates an increasingly negative customer response." The survey dug deeper to find that the ideal level of communication also varies when two forms of media are combined. For example, after one telephone contact, the ideal number of concurrent e-mails is five to six. After one traditional mail contact is made, the proper number of e-mail contacts is about five.