Australian financial firms failing online - Talisma

Source: Talisma

Australian financial services organisations are missing vital opportunities to deliver outstanding customer service due to a lack of enabling technology, according to a recent industry audit by Talisma.

The Customer Interaction Management (CIM) solution specialist assessed the customer service capabilities of Australia's top 43 financial services firms in April 2007, revealing that:
  • only 42 per cent of institutions answered emails within 24 hours
  • phone service was much better than email service but lacked personalisation
  • none offered online assistance or chat services
  • only five per cent of firms offered web self-service
  • only one firm gave customer service reps access to a unified customer interaction history
  • none offered any type of on-line proactive assistance or collaboration to help customers complete complex forms or transactions
  • forms-based transactions such as applications for service have no on-line escalation mechanism to assist customers during the form-fill process.

"Financial services is Australia's third largest sector, accounting for 7.5 per cent of GDP and growing quickly, with new entrants to the market each year, keeping it highly competitive," said Paul Bunn, Managing Director of Talisma Australia.

"As competition for customers increases, financial institutions must go beyond the basics to offer a complete service that delivers a consistent customer experience across every communication channel. The inability to capture new customers from the on-line channel, along with delays in answering phone calls and emails, dent customer confidence, particularly in a sector where there are numerous choices. This will only increase as customers demand new channels such as text messaging or online assistance as a basic service," he said.

The Talisma audit assessed companies on the communications channels of telephone, email, chat and self-service. Ninety-five per cent of the 43 companies surveyed offered an email-based service, with a 42 per cent response rate within 24 hours. However, 54 per cent of all emails were never answered, raising questions about the impact of such a failing on customers.

According to the Customer Operations Perfformance Centre, which is the global authority on performance improvement in customer contact businesses, speed of response has a direct impact on customer satisfaction.

The fact that no financial institutions offered online chat and only five per cent provided a fully-fledged web self-service option was also seen as a significant point of failure.

"Online customer chat and self-service knowledge bases have proven to deliver a highly positive customer experience at much lower cost than the telephone-based service that Australian companies are relying on today. On-line chat is now at a 15 per cent penetration in North America, however, very few Australian companies are taking advantage of the rich customer service experience it offers," said Mr Bunn.

"Customers want access to a range of communications channels and need to know that they will receive at least a consistent level of service regardless of the channel they choose. More importantly, for the on-line channels the customer experience is a richer and more effective service offering than the telephone. Banks can collaborate on forms and transactions with the customer, rather than just talk it through on the phone. This means that financial services firms can no longer afford to manage these channels in isolation and must integrate them with the contact centre."

Mr Bunn also pointed to the importance of personalisation, which is increasingly recognised as a critical factor in delivering customer service excellence. The survey revealed that only five per cent of companies answered telephone calls with personalised content while 44 per cent of email responses included personalised content.

"Customers want to be treated as individuals and will respond positively to the company that makes them feel unique. Australian financial services firms have a long way to go when it comes to achieving this and should leverage some of the technological solutions available on the market," Mr Bunn concluded.

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