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BizReport : : November 08, 2012

Performance of UK online customer service in decline

There is much room for improvement in online customer service in the UK, according to new research from customer interaction technology firm Eptica, with half of the country's leading company websites failing to address standard customer questions.

by Helen Leggatt

eptica-logo.gifEptica's latest Multichannel Customer Experience Study reveals that UK companies aren't providing answers to crucial customer service questions on their websites. One hundred of the UK's leading company websites were assessed for their ability to provide site visitors with the answers to 10 standard questions along with the speed and accuracy of their email responses.

The results show just how shoddy a service online consumers in the UK are getting. Websites were only able to answer a little over half (53%) of the 10 questions.

"There's also a growing chasm between best and worst," says Eptica on its company blog. "For example fashion retailers could answer 75% of questions asked on their sites, while CD/DVD/Booksellers and food retailers scored just 40%. Worryingly given we asked the same questions as in 2011, 28% of companies performed worse than in 2012 - showing a real decline in the experience they are providing."

There's more disappointing news from the study. Despite a growing preference for email as a customer service channel, driven in part by the rise in use of smartphones for email activity, some UK firms aren't giving consumers the option to use this channel.

Almost a quarter (23%) of those companies investigated by Eptica didn't provide a means by which they could be contacted by email or, at the very least, email addresses were difficult to locate on a website.

Performance as dropped, too. Just 39% of companies successfully answered a simple question via email in 2012, compared to 48% last year.

"The fact that the performance of many companies has worsened over the last twelve months is disappointing to see - poor service will simply endanger sales in today's competitive market," said Dee Roche, Global Marketing Director, Eptica. "Customers want to be able to contact companies through their channel of choice, so businesses need to adopt a joined-up, multichannel approach if they are to meet their needs."

On a more positive note, use of social media for customer service was found to have nearly doubled in the last year. Twice the number of companies now have a Facebook page - 64 this year compared to 33 in 2011 - as is the case with Twitter where 70 companies now have an account compared to just 36 last year.

There is still some way to go before social media channels become integrated with a company's customer service function. Eptica found that, currently, only 11% of companies link the two.

Tags: customer contact, customer service, email, multichannel, social media, UK

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