Half of banking websites unable to answer basic customer questions

Cambridge, UK, 1 August 2006: Online customer service from Britain’s banks has sunk to an all time low, according to the latest annual research from eService provider Transversal (www.transversal.com). Half of the major banks surveyed were unable to answer a single one of ten basic customer questions asked via their websites, although a minority of banks scored highly. These results illustrate that there is growing chasm between the best and worst performing banks.

The whole sector averaged 2.5 out of ten, answering a quarter of common questions. Overall findings are substantially worse than 2005, when only two banks scored zero and the sector successfully answered three questions on average. Questions were based on typical customer enquiries and asked for information on credit card offers, borrowing and mortgages.

The results demonstrate that banks are failing to take online service seriously, despite 56 per cent of Britons now banking on the web1. Given widespread branch closures this poor online service is forcing customers to email or call contact centres, which are often offshored, dramatically increasing frustration. Despite this sixty per cent of bank websites didn’t allow consumers to contact them via email, forcing them to the phone.

Of those that provided the ability to email, they took a laggardly average of 22 hours to respond. Even the shortest response took 8 hours, which is the equivalent of a whole business day. The slowest response was 69 hours – sufficient time to travel to an offshored contact centre and ask the question in person.

“The immediacy and speed of the online channel suits both consumers and banks, but must be backed up by fast, accurate customer service” commented Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “While more and more Britons are banking online overall customer service has taken a dramatic step backward over the last year. Our research shows a growing chasm between the best and worst performers. Those laggards that fail to understand and invest in online customer service face frustrated customers that won’t hesitate to move to rivals.”

Banks also failed to provide even static customer information – only half had Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) pages, and in many cases these were hidden away in obscure corners of their sites, rather than displayed prominently.

The research was part of Transversal’s annual survey of 100 leading organisations in 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 banking results were as follows:
Average number of questions answered online: 2.5 out of 10 (2005 findings: 3)
Percentage of companies that responded to email correctly: 40% (2005 findings: 55%)
Average email response time: 22 hours (2005 findings: 17 hours)
Percentage with customer FAQ pages: 50% (2005 findings: 60%)
Percentage with customer search: 60% (2005 findings: 40%)

Source Datamonitor, March 2006 http://www.datamonitor.com/~ae37c84248b745549e7fb4346f7d0f77~/industries/news/article/?pid=F069D5BF-52AD-4EB5-9E69-7E5ABE4556DE&type=NewsWire.
Rainier PR
Chris Measures/Rupert Walker +44 (0)20 7494 6570 transversal@rainierpr.co.uk

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, Nissan, Fujifilm, Standard Life, Freemans, Grattans, Look Again, Kaleidoscope and The AA.

Published on: 12:00AM on 1st August 2006