The majority of UK bank Web sites are failing to provide customers with a worthwhile online experience says a new research report, with many serving up little more than expensive and overly complex "brochureware".
According to the study, which tracked fifty financial service providers over a five day period, the sector is spending millions of pounds developing and marketing its Web presence, but the majority of sites are failing the consumer in terms of concrete information and advice as well as in the basic functionality which would help visitors make the most of their time online.
The research was conducted by Round Consultancy, the e-CRM services arm of Transacsys. Round says that only six companies of the fifty surveyed actually utilised the Internet as a means of giving consumers what they wanted and built genuine "relationships" with Web site visitor. These are, in no particular order, Clydesdale bank, First-e, First Active, Newcastle Building Society, Northern Bank and Paragon Finance.
In most cases users faced a 14% chance of being denied access to a site, after which 58% had no map to assist navigation and more than three quarters did not provide any obvious assistance with frequently asked questions (FAQ's).
Fifty per cent of bank Web sites offering an email support service failed to reply to customer queries. Callback services and on-line chat facilities, successfully utilised in the US, were also markedly absent, the report notes.
Jamie Clyde, Round's CEO, says that consumer expectations far exceed the ability - or willingness - of most financial service site operators to deliver. He continues "Consumers choose to get their financial information online for a number of clear reasons: they've been led to believe that they'll find a one-stop-shop of easy-to-find information and advice; they've also been told that the Internet allows for immediate communication - and answers. Unfortunately, most of the financial service providers we surveyed don't seem to have taken any of this on board."