UK Organisations Fail 2007 Customer Service Test

Websites that are unable to answer basic customer service questions and companies that take more than 100 hours to reply to email are forcing UK consumers to pick up the phone if they want fast customer service. These are the findings of the latest annual multi-channel customer service analysis of 100 leading websites by eService provider Transversal.

Transversal’s third annual research survey aimed to measure customer service by searching for answers to common, sector specific questions across multiple channels. It asked ten questions on each organisation’s website, as well as sent an email and phoned the contact centre of 100 major UK companies in the banking, telecoms, insurance, travel, consumer electronics, grocery retail, fashion retail, CD/DVD retail, consumer electronics retail and utilities sectors.

The 2007 results showed patchy improvements on the web from 2005 and 2006. However websites could only provide answers for 50 per cent of questions asked online, while it took an average of 46 hours to respond to email (up from 33 hours in 2006), forcing consumers to use other communication channels. In contrast the survey found that 42 per cent of calls to contact centres were answered within a minute with 67 per cent answered within 3 minutes, providing faster answers to increasingly impatient consumers.

Telecoms, insurance, travel, consumer electronics, grocers and utilities were rated the worst for answering online queries, all unable to answer 60 per cent of online consumer queries. 70 per cent of companies answered four or less of ten straightforward, commonly-asked questions.

Even the fashion sector, which came top failed to answer 30 per cent of questions asked via the web, and scored worst for email response, taking 116 hours to answer on average. Ironically, given the fast pace of this sector, this is probably sufficient time to design, manufacture and ship new clothes to a High Street shop.

Organisations have invested heavily in the web channel over the past five years, but Transversal’s research found that this has not kept pace with growing user numbers and desire for fast answers. Complex and confusing websites with poor or non-existent search facilities are leading to customers having to call or email contact centres for information.

This poor online and email customer service combined with the improvements in the telephone channel mean that for those wanting answers quickly the phone is the fastest route, despite the web supposing to instantly gratify our need for information, 24 x 7.

Organisations could be forced to grow their contact centres exponentially unless web self-service systems are introduced to provide better information and soak up routine calls and emails.

“Despite the enormous growth in the online channel, across all sectors, our research shows that consumers are still suffering from substandard online service”, said Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “While we’ve seen marginal improvements over the three years that we have carried out this analysis a lack of a cohesive multi-channel strategy means in the majority of cases it is quicker to call than visit a company’s website.

With the massive investment made in the online channel and its ability to offer unparalleled tailoring and personalisation UK organisations need to start giving the answers online.”

As part of the research Transversal analysed if organisations used customer questions to provide tailored, additional information promoting related products or special offers. Only 41 out of 1,000 web interactions (4.1 per cent) were able to supply this information, cutting off a valuable channel for increasing sales and customer satisfaction.

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