The research surveyed fifty leading organisations in the travel, banking, insurance, consumer goods and telecoms sectors. It asked ten common, sector-specific questions on each site, as well as emailing a single question to the organisation’s customer service department. Responses were marked for relevance and for time taken to respond.
Web sites in the strongest sector – banking -could only provide adequate answers to three out of the ten questions asked. The worst sector was telecoms, which could answer just one of ten questions on average. Scores varied greatly between individual companies surveyed – with 34 per cent unable to answer any questions at all.
For frustrated customers forced to submit questions by email, response rates were equally dismal. 60 per cent of travel companies did not bother to answer emails at all and those that did took an average of 42 hours to respond. The highest number of responses came from telecoms companies (70 per cent) but they still took over a day to reply – 32 hours on average.
Tardiest of all were consumer electronics companies who took an average of 51 hours to respond to email. The fastest average response time came from the banking sector. While one stood out with a response within two hours the rest averaged 17 hours – hardly the immediate answers that online consumers are looking for. Response rates were only calculated on those organisations that actually answered the question and excluded automatically generated holding replies.
“Given the growth in the online channel over the past five years, these figures demonstrate an astonishing lack of understanding by the average organisation,” said Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “Our research shows that there is a growing customer service chasm between those companies that take online seriously and those that don’t. Consumers on the web want answers now – they don’t want to have to wait days for an email response or be forced to call a contact centre. However many organisations seem to be forcing customers down these channels through an inability to answer simple questions in a timely manner.”
Nearly 50% of UK consumers use the web as part of the purchasing process for goods and services and it is estimated that over 60 per cent of emails to contact centres are generated by consumers unable to find answers on company web sites.
The survey was carried out in February 2005, with researchers visiting leading UK websites, following a set methodology. Average results are as follows:
Average number of questions answered online:
Banking 3 out of 10
Insurance 2.5 out of 10
Consumer Electronics 2.4 out of 10
Travel 1.2 out of 10
Telecoms 1 out of 10
Average 2.1 out of 10
Percentage of companies that responded to email
Banking 60 per cent
Insurance 50 per cent
Consumer Electronics 60 per cent
Travel 40 per cent
Telecoms 70 per cent
Average 56 per cent
Average email response time
Banking 17 hours
Insurance 25 hours
Consumer Electronics 51 hours
Travel 42 hours
Telecoms 32 hours
Average 33 hours