Retail brands top new Online Customer Service Index, but financial services providers fail to deliver satisfactory email customer service

• UK call centres scored an average of just 33% in new Online Customer Service Index
• Almost half (47%) failed to respond to customer email requests
• 74% offer just one customer service option
• Just 20% of financial services responded to emails within 24 hours, compared to 61% of local government call centres and 62% of travel and leisure brands
• Only 3% offered web chat on their website

A new report reveals that UK organisations, including top brands and local government, have hit rock bottom in their delivery of multi-channel customer service. The nGenera Online Customer Service Index, based on a mystery shopper study of 100 major brands in the UK, reveals an average score of just 33% for effective customer service provided through website help sections, emails and live chat. Only 3% offered a full multi-channel service comprising email, an online help section and web chat. j

The benchmark study – available to download at http://cim.ngenera.com/onlinecustomerservice – assessed the availability of multi-channel communication, the timeliness and personalisation of responses, as well as the clarity and accuracy of information provided. Companies were selected from five sectors: retail, financial services, local government, utilities, travel and leisure, with each awarded a score out of 100.

Overall, retail was the best performing sector for multi-channel customer service with a score of 39%, followed by travel and leisure (36%) and utilities (33%). Local government scored just 29%, nudging ahead of financial services providers at the bottom of the Online Customer Service Index with 28%.

Poor email customer service
Despite email being the preferred communication channel for many consumers, ahead of using the phone*, email service standards were worryingly low. 28% of organisations did not provide an email option, and of those who did only 14% responded within 12 hours; almost half of those emailed (47%) failed to answer an email within four weeks of receiving it. Over a third (36%) delivered auto-acknowledgements with expected response times, but one in four failed to meet their own deadline!

Online help sections difficult to use
A high number (87%) of the companies studied provided some level of online help but over a third (39%) were not searchable, making it hard for online visitors to find the right information.

Lack of live chat support
The vast majority of companies (74%) provided just one online customer service option, primarily by email or an online help section. Only three call centres in the study offered live chat.

Matthew Haines, European Managing Director of nGenera CIM, comments: “It is shocking that, in spite of widespread awareness of consumer preferences for multi-channel communications, UK companies are continuing to ignore consumer demands. Meanwhile, call volumes continue to grow, agent frustration is at an all-time high and phone queues remain a major source of frustration for consumers. By adopting online channels organisations can increase customer satisfaction, provide better career development opportunities to customer service staff and increase online sales to generate a greater ROI on their rising online marketing spend.”

“The findings are particularly surprising given the ongoing need to improve the performance of the contact centre, while reducing operating costs. Efficient systems to handle email communication are available and can deliver a measurable ROI within a well-defined timeframe. Similarly, online chat enables agents to manage several customer interactions simultaneously, thereby increasing productivity alongside customer satisfaction,” adds Haines.

*According to an online survey of over 2,000 people, commissioned by nGenera CIM in July 2009.

Published on: 10:11AM on 29th April 2010