UK brands are struggling to cope with a rising volume of queries and growing consumer expectations, according to new research.
That’s the key finding of the Eptica Multichannel Customer Conversation Study. Replicating real-world performance, it evaluated 100 leading UK brands on their ability to provide answers to ten routine questions via the web as well as their speed, and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.
The 100 UK companies surveyed could only answer 44% of routine questions asked on the web, email, Twitter and Facebook, down from 49% in 2016.
It found that:
• Overall, companies could only answer 44% of routine questions asked on the web, email, Twitter and Facebook, down from 49% in 2016
• Social media saw the biggest falls, with 34% of questions answered on Twitter, a drop from 48% in 2016, and 35% on Facebook, down from 45%
• Chat improved – 22% of companies responded successfully on chat, in an average time of 2 minutes 14 seconds. In 2016 the corresponding figures were 16% and 7 minutes 40 seconds
• Speed improved on all channels except for Twitter, with Facebook (3 hours 25m) the fastest on average at providing responses
• Email improved in accuracy, from 38% to 40%, but still took over a day to reply on average (26 hours 23m)
• Brands provided an average of 67% of answers on their websites, but this masked real differences – one food & drink retailer answered 90%, another just 10%.
Social media saw the biggest fall, potentially driven by its increasing use by consumers as a customer service channel. Just 34% of tweets and 35% of Facebook messages received a successful answer, despite 94% of companies advertising their Twitter handles, and 89% having Facebook pages. Performance has dropped substantially – in 2016 48% of tweets and 45% of Facebook messages received an accurate response.
Conducted since 2012 by digital customer experience software provider Eptica, and designed to test real-world performance, the Eptica Multichannel Customer Conversation Study evaluated 100 leading UK brands from the insurance, banking, travel, telecoms, utility, electronics manufacturing, fashion, consumer electronics retail, food and drink retail and entertainment sectors, on their ability to provide answers to ten routine questions via the web as well as their speed, and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.
As the table below shows, on the positive side, the web, email and chat channels all saw improvements in both accuracy and speed.
“Brands today face a growing challenge when it comes to customer experience,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Consumers are ever-more demanding, and expect fast, high quality and informed conversations with brands if they are to remain loyal. However, our research shows that many brands are finding it difficult to cope with the sheer volume of queries they receive, particularly on social media. Failure to dedicate sufficient resources to customer experience, or to deploy new technologies such as artificial intelligence to support staff will ultimately hit the bottom line, as consumers switch to rivals who offer them the service they demand.”
The research uncovered growing gaps between the best and worst performers, both within specific sectors and also between different types of company. One food and drink retailer responded to an email in 1 hour 32 minutes – yet another took over 7 days to answer exactly the same query. A utility answered a tweet in 2 minutes, far faster than a rival that took 6 days. Given that consumers are happy to switch supplier, whatever the industry, these findings need to act as a wake up call to customer service laggards. Overall consumer electronics retail was the best-performing sector, answering 67% of all queries on the web, email and social media, with utilities trailing far behind with just 33%.
Customers have increasingly complex questions, and want higher quality, personalised service from brands. Recognising this, for the first time the research measured the quality of responses for email, social media and chat, across six sectors, based on their speed, relevance, context, personalisation and empathy. This found that overall channel quality scores ranged from 57% (chat) to 68% (Facebook). Speed scored highest (69%), well ahead of context (60%) and empathy (59%), demonstrated that brands need to focus on quality if they are to successfully engage consumers.
Additional findings included:
• 4 brands answered on all four channels (email, Twitter, Facebook and chat), with 75% of them providing consistent answers. 4 brands failed to answer on any of these channels.
• Showing inconsistent performance, one utility answered a query on Twitter and Facebook in 2 minutes – but then took over 3 days to reply to the same question on email.
• On the web, banks were top, answering an average of 82% of queries successfully. Entertainment retailers came bottom, answering just 49% on average.
• Chat was the most accurate channel, with 89% of queries receiving a successful answer.
• While 49% of brands claimed to offer chat, when tested just 22% had it working, demonstrating a lack of resources.
• 65% of brands provided the opportunity to email them, up 1% from 2016– but just 40% responded successfully, showing gaps in their processes.
The study evaluated 100 UK brands, split equally between the insurance, banking, travel, telecoms, utility, electronics manufacturing, fashion, consumer electronics retail, food and drink retail and entertainment sectors, analysing the speed, relevance and quality of their responses to routine customer queries via the web, email, chat, Facebook and Twitter. Research was completed in Q3 2017.