Are you being served – online? Most British firms fail the online customer service test, warns survey

By Kurt Bager

A survey of more than 2000 consumers and businesses across Britain found that most companies, while happy to take their customer’s cash for products and services over the Internet, are failing to deliver an online customer service experience to match.

The survey, commissioned by live chat software provider Netop, found that today’s customers want to connect fast, and engage live with a human customer service representative at their bank, building society, retailer, grocer or indeed any other provider they use. Customers also prefer to engage online, from the comfort of their own home, using a tool such as live chat to help avoid call centre misunderstandings that arise from unintelligible accents.

Despite these findings, the vast majority (93%) of UK businesses are failing to take advantage of live chat to enhance their customers’ service experience.

Instead, customers are relegated to using traditional and archaic customer service methods to get satisfaction, typically queuing on the phone (75%) or waiting for a response to an email (71%). Meanwhile, a surprisingly high number of people (22%) still rely on old-fashioned pen and paper to get their voice heard.

Don’t put me on hold!

When comparing the advantages of live chat over these other customer service channels almost three-quarters (73%) said being held in a long phone queue was their biggest pet hate. Meanwhile, well over half (57%) said they disliked phone calls that were routed between different departments.

Just over half (52%) think that live chat would finally bring an end to listening to interminable ‘hold music’ played while they wait for someone to answer the phone. A similar amount (54%) felt that live chat could eliminate any issues due to strong regional or foreign accents at the call centre.

However, although consumers believe that live chat can solve many customer service headaches and irritations, just 7 percent of British companies actually offer an online chat facility on their website today. Yet, despite the limited availability of live chat in Britain, it was used last year by more than a quarter (28%) of those surveyed suggesting that wherever a live chat option can be found on a website, it will be heavily used.

Indeed, many businesses are missing an easy opportunity to engage more closely with their customers, and on their customer’s terms. Live chat resolves almost all the problems of a call centre and does so much more quickly. At the same it allows businesses to give a personalised service experience making customers feel more valued and bringing them closer to their brand. Hands down, live chat beats listening to hold music and saves you having to pop into town to sort something out that could be easily addressed online.

This view is supported by the survey that found that customers were 18% more likely to prefer using live chat to contact their service provider than have a face-to-face meeting. This marked preference towards live chat, rather than having a physical meeting, further suggests that the face of British online customer service needs to evolve fast.

Neil Humphries is IT/Web marketing manager at UK watchmaker Accurist, a company that uses live chat software to handle customer support inquiries. He said: “We’re very aware that it can take just one bad experience for some customers to switch to another brand. To help avoid this, we have made live chat a key part of a holistic customer service strategy, which also includes phone and email support. The live chat tool helps us resolve most issues quickly and easily, and in a very personal way. As a result, it helps us to generate positive outcomes from online customer queries, and keeps customers closer to our brand. For any business or brand that relies on the relationship it has with its customers, live chat should become a key part of the customer experience equation.”

About the author

Kurt Bager is CEO of Netop, a company which develops and sells market leading software solutions that enable swift, secure and seamless transfer of video, screens, sounds and data between two or more computers. The company has three business areas: Secure Remote Control, Classroom Management and Live Chat. Headquartered in Denmark, Netop employs 130 people and has subsidiaries in the United States, Great Britain, China, Romania and Switzerland. The company sells its solutions to public and private clients in more than 80 countries. Netop Solutions A/S shares are listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange OMX.

Netop

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