Consumers & businesses feel benefits of web self-service
The web is becoming a primary customer service channel for UK businesses as more consumers shop and access information online, according to Transversal's latest Web Self-Service Index.
The index highlighted a sharp increase in the number of consumers asking questions through web self-service systems to obtain customer service information. The index monitors consumer behaviour by analysing usage and volume through client sites, looking both at the overall rate of adoption and the amount of customers and questions handled by individual client applications.
Growth in popularity In the quest to avoid calling or e-mailing company contact centres, the number of consumers turning to this channel for faster responses to their questions grew by 224% between 2004 and 2006. The positive growth trend continued between 2005 and 2006 with the number of actual questions asked using web self-service facilities having grown by 107%.
Comparing the first and second halves of 2006, questions asked through Transversal's client web self-service applications were up by more than one-third (39%).
Seasonal peaks The biggest seasonal peaks were seen in the retail and consumer electronics sectors during the run-up to Christmas 2006. For example, retailer Freemans saw a 29% growth in questions asked through its system, with the majority of this activity being in the six weeks leading up to 25th December 2006.
The travel sector is expected to see the biggest peak in the first half of 2007, as holiday-makers increasingly research and buy their travel online. Figures from Continental Research suggest that some 17 million Britons will buy part of their main holiday online, with 21 million using the internet for research.
Business benefits These figures reveal the growing acceptance by consumers of automated, online customer service systems. This means that more businesses can begin to benefit from the advantages and lower costs of web-based self-service systems, and also from better management of the seasonal peaks in customer service that normally increase the load on call centres and help desks.
For example, Barclays Bank reported a 75% increase in customers using its Transversal self-service web site from 2005 to 2006. The system handled nearly 1 million customer visits, and answered more than 2 million customer service and sales questions online during that time.
And the UK-based airport parking and hotel reservations provider Holiday Extras reports answering 92% of online customer queries automatically through web self-service. Since deploying the system, calls to the contact centre have dropped by 9% while online sales increased by 9%.
Davin Yap, CEO for Transversal, concluded: "As use of the internet has increased so has the consumer's desire to get more intuitive, accurate and fast responses to their questions."