Traditional call centers throughout the world have responded to consumer demand by adding multiple communication channels such as websites and e-mail to enable consumers to find the information they are seeking and resolve their issues without having to pick up the phone and talk to anyone to get the job done.
While this not only helps to improve customer service, it also goes a long way to reducing the costs associated with live-agent handled calls. The challenge for some contact centers however is when these channels are not performing to customer expectations.
According to the latest annual multi-channel customer service analysis of 100 Web site companies by eService provider Transversal, Web sites that are unable to answer basic customer service questions and companies that take more than 100 hours to reply to e-mail are forcing customers in the United Kingdom to puck up the phone to receive faster customer service.
The results of this survey revealed patchy improvements on the Web from 2005 and 2006, although these websites could only provide answers for 50 percent of questions asked online. It took an average of 46 hours to respond to e-mail, an increase from 33 hours in 2006.
The survey also found 42 percent of calls to contact centers were answered within a minute with 67 percent answered within 3 minutes, providing faster answers to increasingly impatient consumers.
Those rated worst for answering online queries included telecoms, insurance, travel, consumer electronics, grocers and utilities. Companies in these industries were unable to answer 60 percent of online consumer queries. In addition, 70 percent of companies answered four or less of ten straightforward, commonly-asked questions.
The fashion sector proved to be the big winner in worst performance. Companies in this industry failed to answer 30 percent of questions asked via the Web and scored worst for e-mail response as they tool an average of 116 hours to answer.
While organizations have invested heavily in the Web channel over the past five years, this research has found that these investments have not kept pace with growing user numbers and desire for fast answers. Customers are increasingly placing calls to the call center as a result of complex and confusing websites that offer poor or non-existent search facilities.
The delivery of poor online and e-mail customer service along with the improvements in telephone channels for websites have led customers seeking quick answers to turn to the phone, instead using the web – designed to satisfy the consumer’s need for 24x7 access and information.
“Despite the enormous growth in the online channel, across all sectors, our research shows that consumers are still suffering from substandard online service,” Davin Yap, CEO of Transversal, said in a company statement.
“While we’ve seen marginal improvements over the three years that we have carried out this analysis a lack of a cohesive multi-channel strategy means in the majority of cases it is quicker to call than visit a company’s Web site.”
“With the massive investment made in the online channel and its ability to offer unparalleled tailoring and personalization UK organizations need to start giving the answers online,” Yap said.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for eastbiz.com. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.
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