Transversal research finds inability to answer basic questions online

Travel companies are delivering the worst online customer service in Britain, according to annual research from eService provider Transversal ( Holidaymakers are being condemned to delays and frustration through a total failure to get their most basic queries answered by travel websites.

In a survey of 100 leading organisations, the travel sector came out joint worst at delivering answers to straightforward questions such as about flight destinations, refunds and visa information. Holiday and airline websites could on average only answer a very poor one question out of ten, with 40 per cent unable to answer a single question online.

To make matters worse, there were even more delays for customers with no other option but to send an email for information – it took an average of 66 hours to get a response. One site took an appalling 149 hours to respond to email – equivalent to travelling around the world twice by plane. In fact, travel companies are taking 24 hours longer to reply to customer email than they did in 2005.

These are particularly shocking results, given the travel industry is rapidly shifting online. Research from Mintel (May 2006) found that UK holidaymakers booked 37 per cent (almost 16.4 million) of overseas holidays or components on the web in 2005, and 20 per cent (7.9 million) of domestic ones.

“Holidaymakers looking for information online are facing long delays even before they set foot in the airport,” commented Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “We were amazed to find that despite highlighting these issues last year, little has improved and in many cases travel websites have gotten worse. These results show that the travel industry’s move online is at the expense of customer service.”

Transversal’s annual research spans the retail, banking, insurance, consumer electronics, utility and telecoms sectors. It aims to measure online customer service by searching for answers to common sector-specific questions, both on websites and via email.

Overall 2006 average travel results were as follows:
Average number of questions answered online: 1.35 out of 10 (2005 findings: 1.2)
Percentage of companies that responded to email correctly: 40% (2005 findings: 2%
Average email response time: 66 hours (2005 findings: 42 hours)
Percentage with customer search: 50% (2005 findings: 30%)

Dee Roche, Head of Marketing +44 (0)1223 723 388
Rainier PR
Chris Measures/Elke Panzner +44 (0)20 7494 6570

About Transversal
Transversal is a Cambridge-based developer of intelligent eCustomer service software that enables organisations to achieve key sales, customer service and efficiency goals. Transversal's flagship service, Metafaq, enables organisations to increase online sales and reduce the volume of call and email queries to contact centres by automatically answering customers' questions online. Transversal customers will typically see immediate and dramatic email reductions, by around 60%, and improvements in email response times, from days to minutes. Intrafaq, Transversal's knowledge management solution for contact centres, delivers information to agents in a unique way from a dynamic natural language knowledgebase. Simply by typing a question, in their own words, agents can access answers to customer questions; providing fast, accurate and consistent responses. Organisations benefit from increased first call resolution and efficiency by improving the knowledge and quality of service provided by customer service and help-desk agents. Transversal's Memory Engine™ is the result of research and development by top researchers in Information Theory and Machine Learning from Caltech and Cambridge universities. Transversal co-founder, Prof. David MacKay, is a world renowned expert in Artificial Intelligence. He pioneered Bayesian Neural Networks in the late 1980s and remains at the forefront of the field. Current customers include Sony, Direct Line, Thomsons, MFI, Barclays, Nissan, Fujifilm, Standard Life, Freemans, Grattans, Look Again, Kaleidoscope and the Metropolitan Police.

Published on: 12:00AM on 12th June 2006