Utility companies and local authority services are among some of the worst ranking sectors in the UK for online customer service, according to research.
The report from social media experts, myclever™ Agency, found that consumers put utility companies (water, gas, electricity, phone and broadband) as the most frustrating sector for online customer service and local authorities fell close behind. However, retailers and professional services came out as the least frustrating sectors.
The report surveyed 1,000 UK consumers on whether current digital services are fully meeting consumer expectations and their views on whether new technology, such as chatbots, could help improve customer service.
It found that the biggest online service frustrations across all sectors was a lack of basic information contained on everyday commercial websites such as retailers, utilities, banks and local government services (45%). Close behind was the inability to ask simple questions (40%). And a third of the sample (33%) said that, even when the option to ask questions existed, the tools they had used in the last month were of poor quality and didn’t provide a timely response.
The main frustrations lie in the inability companies have to answer simple questions quickly. However, when told about the benefits, consumers regarded chatbots as the key-holders to speed, unlocking immediacy and convenience in online services. They felt that these virtual assistants, designed to simulate conversation with human users, would significantly improve online services.
More than two thirds (68%) liked that chatbots would be able to provide a 24-hour service and 64% felt it would resolve the problem of not getting quick answers to simple questions. More than half (51%) felt happy they would get an instant response, mirroring the frustrations felt about current online customer service providers.
When compared to other forms of customer service channels such as apps – an area where businesses have invested heavily – chatbots scored more highly on all perceived benefits.
Rob McNair, managing director of myClever, commented on the findings: “Ever-evolving technology and an increasingly digitalised world has changed commerce forever. Online services that were once a luxury are now being demanded by consumers 24/7. In order to stay competitive, businesses are racing to keep up with consumer demands and technological innovations.
“The frustrations clearly indicate the need for online services to improve. And, although frustrations exist in all sectors, it’s interesting to see that the industries exhibiting the most frustrating customer experiences online are the least likely to improve them. Public sector bodies, for example, are notoriously slow to provide accessible online services – and when they do, they’re often inadequate, confusing and riddled with poor UX.
“It’s one thing if bots can make that a thing of the past, it’s another whether those ranking highest on this list will be prepared to adopt and invest early enough. However, while modest budgets can be a challenge for the demands of digital innovation, the investment in the long term will mean huge cost savings.
“Businesses offering the best customer experience will be at considerable advantage in converting browsers into buyers and earning repeat business. Chatbots offer a solution to most major problems of each sector by promising a swifter, smarter online experience. Our new virtual assistants will be ever-ready, able to listen to our questions and respond intelligently. They will answer our queries, aid our searches and anticipate our needs, learning all the time to refine and improve the experience on offer.”