Research finds quicker to call for information than surf or email

Cambridge, UK, 22 August 2007: Despite UK banks investing millions in the internet, it is faster to phone contact centres for basic information, according to the latest annual multi-channel customer service research from eService provider Transversal (www.transversal.com). Bank websites could only provide answers for 50 per cent of routine questions asked online, with the majority relying on static and complex FAQ pages rather than interacting with customers to deliver the right answers through the right channel.

Demonstrating a growing customer service chasm between banks’ customer service channels, 30 per cent of bank websites struggled to answer more than two out of ten product and service questions – while only one scored top marks. For those trying to get answers from banks via email customer service was even worse. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of banks still don’t offer the facility to email questions. Of those that did the average reply time was 30 hours for a response – and even then only 3 out of ten satisfactorily answered the question, meaning that customers would then need to phone a contact centre for more information.

In contrast, contact centre response times have improved dramatically with 60 per cent of calls answered within 3 minutes, and the shortest wait times being just a few seconds. During the busiest time in the evening, some longer wait times of between 6 and 15 minutes were experienced, but overall answer times were less than 4 minutes. These findings are pushing customers towards the telephone channel, irrespective of personal preference and demonstrate a failure to adopt a cohesive online customer interaction strategy by many banks.

Transversal’s annual research measures customer service by searching for answers to ten common sector-specific questions on the websites, via email and contact centres of ten major UK banks. The 2007 results showed patchy improvements from 2005 and 2006 – overall more questions were answered but it took longer on average to respond to emails (30 versus 22 hours in 2006) and less email questions were answered satisfactorily (30 per cent versus 40 per cent in 2006).

“Banks have invested heavily in the internet channel – but our research shows that in the majority of cases it is very much the poor relation when it comes to customer service,” commented Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “While previously online customers have had to cope with a lack of information we’re now seeing more content – but this makes finding the right answer as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack. With the advent of Web 2.0 providing the ability to deliver a personalised service and improved interaction banks need to wake up to the changing needs of their customers – or suffer the consequences as they shift accounts.”

15 million people now bank online in the UK, a figure that is growing rapidly due to higher broadband usage and greater choice on the web. However this increase has been matched by an increased impatience by customers, who are now demanding faster answers to more complex queries from their banks.

While 80 per cent of banks surveyed has some sort of customer Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section (up from 50 per cent in 2006) many of these were extremely large and difficult to navigate to find tailored information.

Only 30 per cent had implemented natural language eService solutions that use neural network technology to analyse questions in order to find the best response.
Next generation eService solutions have the intelligence and potential to do for websites what Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has done for contact centres, fundamentally transforming the quality and efficiency of customer service by delivering the right answer at the right time, and if desired, allowing customers to transition seamlessly to the most appropriate customer service specialist, based on how they search and ask questions on the website. This also reduces pressure on busy contact centres by handling around 90 per cent of routine questions online, and freeing costly agent resources for handling more complex and transactional queries which need a higher level of personal attention.

Overall 2007 average banking results were as follows:
• Average number of questions answered online: 5 out of 10 (2006 findings: 3)
• Percentage of companies that responded to email correctly: 30% (2006 findings: 40%)
• Average email response time: 30 hours (2006 findings: 22 hours)
• Percentage with customer FAQ pages:80% (2005 findings: 50%)
• Percentage with customer search: 60% (2005 findings: 40%)
• Average call wait times:
o 1-2pm: 1 minute 36 seconds
o 6-7pm: 3 minute 50 seconds
o 7-8pm: 3 minute 38 seconds
o 8-9pm: 2 minute 14 seconds

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About Transversal
Transversal is a Cambridge-based developer of multi-channel eService solutions for customer-facing websites and contact centres that achieve high-impact wins on improved service, reduced costs and increased sales. Transversal's flagship Web Self-service Sales EngineTM solution uses the online customer service interaction to deliver targeted offers and advertising based on what customers ask about - a customer service strategy proven to produce high response rates and sales, while simultaneously improving customer service quality and efficiency. MetafaqTM reduces 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.

Published on: 12:00AM on 24th August 2007