The majority of financial firms are failing to provide adequate online customer services to their clients, according to a study of 72 US financial institutions commissioned by IBM and CRM vendor Kana Software.
The study evaluated the usability of online self-service, escalation via multiple channels - such as e-mail, chat, telephone and online collaboration tools - and the quality of responses received to e-mail inquiries.
The majority of banks, insurance companies and investment firms overlook their customer self-service Web site as a low-cost, effective channel to improve customer service and retention, says the report.
The research found that a massive 95% percent of Web sites did not provide answers to basic questions such as:
- What do you charge for cancelling a cheque?
- Can I make an insurance claim online?
- Can you buy and sell shares on the London Stock Exchange for me?
Well over half - 67% - of firms did not provide satisfactory answers via e-mail and only six per cent offered the ability to escalate inquiries to e-mail or telephone channels.
Danny Turano, vice president, global financial services, Kana, says a timely, consistent experience across all channels significantly improves productivity, customer satisfaction and retention.
"Delivering rich, targeted content and seamless escalation to assisted service channels are key enablers of sustained self-service adoption," says Turano. "We've found this will drive 80% resolution on first contact for escalated online interactions and improve customer satisfaction ratings by 90%."
June Yee Felix, general manager, banking solutions and strategy, IBM, adds that firms which enable customers to easily answer their own questions online using searchable FAQs and Web 2.0 capabilities - such as social networking software and live chat - can increase customer satisfaction and cross-selling opportunities and reduce pressure on other channels such as call centres and branch offices.
However banks that want to implement new self-service channels face significant application integration challenges due to complex IT infrastructures that are siloed and run on multiple platforms from different vendors.
In the study, researchers benchmarked the overall quality of online customer service offered by each firm, ranking companies in a quadrant according to proficiency scores for contact channels and effectiveness of each channel. Just four per cent scored in the top 'multi-channel leaders' quadrant for having multiple and highly effective channels available to their customers.
A quarter (25%) landed in the 'best practice' quadrant for having only a few channels but using those channels effectively. Around 15% fell into the 'lip service' quadrant - these companies had multiple access channels but they were ineffective. The majority of companies – 585 – fell into the lowest quadrant for lack of both the necessary online access channels or for having a channel that was ineffective.