Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

A Shock to the System?

Figures released this week by the Energy Ombudsman show that complaints against energy companies in the UK are at their highest ever level. They more than doubled, from 10,598 in the first six months of 2013 to 22,671 in the same period of 2014. 84% of complaints related to billing and this news follows previous large fines for misselling for a number of utilities.

Driven by a desire to open up the market to greater competition industryEptica Utility Customer Service regulator Ofgem has introduced new measures to make it easier to switch supplier and to simplify tariffs for customers. This includes the ability to move utility within three days by the end of 2014 – while next day switching will be in place by the end of 2018. Currently it can take five weeks to switch, including a two week cooling-off period where customers can change their minds.

All of these developments, along with consumer dissatisfaction at rising bills, put the spotlight on customer service. Making it easier to switch increases the power of customers, and they are likely to demand a better service to win and retain their business.

So, how is the utility industry faring, when it comes to the customer experience? The picture is mixed, according to the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study, which evaluated 10 leading UK utilities. It replicated consumer behaviour by measuring them on their ability to provide answers to ten routine questions via the web as well as their speed, accuracy and consistency when responding to email, Twitter and web chat.

The headline findings show a real difference between channels:

  • Utilities answered an average of 66% of routine questions on their websites, although this varied between companies. Three companies scored 80%, while two only answered three out of ten questions.
  • Email performance worsened. Just 40% of companies answered a question emailed to them, down from 70% in 2012.
  • The time taken to respond to email also deteriorated. One company took over 317 hours to reply – hardly helpful for next day switching. The fastest response was 6 hours 22 minutes.
  • Twitter was more promising, with 50% of companies successfully answered a tweeted question. The fastest took just 20 minutes, but the slowest replied in 95 hours 15 minutes.
  • At the time of the research no utility offered web chat, which is a proven way of delivering fast, personalised service to customers.
  • Consistency was also an issue. Two companies provided the same answer on two channels – others either failed to respond or gave different responses.
  • Channel choice was patchy. For example, one utility didn’t offer email to non-customers or have a Twitter handle, meaning that if consumers couldn’t find an answer on their website, they were forced to call the company to get an answer to their question.

The rising tide of consumer dissatisfaction and increasing legislation mean that customer service will be crucial to utilities in winning and retaining business moving forward. While some utilities are already providing fast, helpful service, there is a great variation between different channels and different companies. Utilities need to benchmark themselves against market leaders and ensure they are on the channels that their customers want to use – the time to act is now, before faster switching changes the competitive landscape forever.

Delivering patchy performance – UK retailers and customer service

July 2, 2014 1 comment

The UK retail landscape has changed radically in the last ten years. The rise of the internet, new competition, increasingly demanding consumers and the slowdown caused by the recession have triggered the demise of many long-standing players, transforming the sector.

How are the UK’s top retailers coping with these challenges? To find out, the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study evaluated 40 leading UK retailers, spread across four sectors, food & wine, consumer electronics, entertainment and fashion. It measured them on their ability to provide answers to ten routine questions via the web as well as their speed and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter and web chat. Sample questions included:

  • Can I add items to an order before it is delivered?
  • Can I order online and pick up instore?
  • Do you have an ethical sourcing policy? If so, where can I find details?

The Study found wide variations between different sectors, channels and individual companies. These meant that while some retailers scored highly, the overall performance was patchy, with over a third of questions going unanswered online, via email or through Twitter. On a channel by channel basis, performance varied as follows:

  • On the web: Retailers topped the overall study (which also looked at the insurance, travel, consumer electronics manufacturers, utility, telecoms and banking sectors) when it came to answering questions on the web – but also brought up the rear. Fashion retailers scored an average of 79%, while entertainment and electronics retailers only managed 52%.10% of retailers scored 9 or 10, while 17.5% were only able to answer 3 or fewer questions. This means that whilst the overall average for retailers was 60% (up from 53% last year) – 4 out of ten questions are simply not being answered online.
  • Twitter: Over eight in ten (83%) of retailers are on Twitter, but just 33% responded successfully to tweeted questions and the average response time was slow at 13 hours 10 minutes. The fact that there was a 30% difference in performance between email and Twitter, even though the same question was asked on both, shows that the sector needs to share knowledge better between the two channels.
  • Email: Overall, 63% of retailers successfully answered a question emailed to them, a 10% improvement on the same study last year. Speed of email response had also improved dramatically – with an average time of 35 hours and 43 minutes (versus 67 hours last year) but this does mask enormous differences – one electronics retailer responded in 7 minutes, yet another in the same sector, took nearly ten days.
  • Web chat: When the research took place just three companies (8%) had web chat deployed, although others advertised on their web site and simply did not have it working at the time or have introduced it subsequently. Those that did offer chat, principally electronics retailers, benefited from its speed and flexibility – 83% of interactions received satisfactory answers in an average time of 4 minutes.

In an increasingly competitive market retailers should look at the following five key areas if they are to continue to meet rising customer expectations:

  1. Increase efficiency across channels: Retailers need to invest to improve efficiency by centralising customer service and automating as much as possible. Technology such as web self-service can deflect simple interactions to online channels, while advanced linguistic analysis can better understand incoming emails or tweets and suggest more relevant answers based on an understanding of language and context.
  2. Value customers’ time: Retailers need to deliver a multichannel response, answering questions quickly, on the customer’s channel of choice, powered by consistent, centralised knowledge. Retailers are advised to investigate new channels and devices such as mobile and social and ensure they have a presence on them that meets customer needs.
  3. Engage: To build loyalty and a deep relationship retailers need to engage with customers. Understand the customer journey and consumer expectations. Use linguistics to analyse and understand the questions people ask so that you can fine tune the experience to best meet their needs. Proactive web chat not only helps customers by quickly answering their queries but also increases engagement and drives additional sales.
  4. Benchmark the best: In a world where the internet increases competition and makes it easy for new entrants to launch, retailers need to be constantly improving. As a first step, companies should therefore benchmark their performance against immediate competitors. But they should also look further afield and review the wider market to spot new ideas that can be adapted and incorporated into operations, to increase differentiation and efficiency.
  5. Integrate with the business: Everyone is involved in the customer experience, from those working in shops to delivery drivers and senior management. Retailers are advised to work across departments to share information and link systems together to give an end-to-end view of the customer relationship. In the longer term linguistics can become part of the customer experience and information shared as part of a retailer’s big data strategy.

To download the study in full, including a sector-by-sector breakdown and to access further recommendations from Eptica please visit:

The UK insurance customer experience – struggling to deliver?

Insurers in the UK are under unprecedented pressure. Margins have been slashed by the rise of the internet and price comparison sites, competition is growing, customer loyalty is at an all-time low and claim costs and regulation are both increasing.Insurance_cover_small

Against this backdrop,the balance of power is shifting overwhelmingly in favour of consumers. They expect more, for less – and want answers faster and through the channels they choose. Adding to consumer pressures is a growth in regulation – insurers now have to be able to provide a full audit trail of all their interactions with customers and prove that they are obeying not just the spirit but the letter of the law.

To see how some the sector is coping with these challenges, the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study evaluated ten leading UK insurers. It looked at their ability to provide answers to routine questions via the web as well as their speed, accuracy and consistency when responding to email, Twitter and web chat. The study formed part of a larger, multi-sector study of 100 major UK brands, and builds on research carried out over the past two years.

So, how did the insurance sector perform across each channel?

  • On the web: Over half (57%) of questions were answered online (up from 48% in the previous year), this lagged behind other sectors, notably fashion retailers, who answered 79% of questions asked via the web. There was a widening gulf between best and worst – one company successfully answered 8 questions online, while another provided a relevant response to just 3.
  • Twitter: Half of companies were on Twitter, although just three responded successfully to tweeted questions, putting insurance in the bottom half of the sector league table. The average response time was 37 minutes.
  • Email: While 90% of insurers offered the ability for non-customers to email them, only 70% actually responded to a message. And then just 30% answered the question satisfactorily. There were great differences between insurers. One responded within 1 hour and 6 minutes – yet the slowest took over five days.
  • Web chat: At the time of the study none of the insurers surveyed offered web chat, although one has since introduced the service. Insurers could be missing out as the study overall found that with other sectors web chat scored highly for accuracy and speed, with 93.5% of interactions receiving satisfactory answers in an average time of 4 minutes and 29 seconds.

All in all, the study found inconsistencies in terms of channel availability, response times and the answers delivered between different insurers. Based on our experience, Eptica recommends five areas to focus on in order to resolve these challenges:

  1. Increase efficiency
  2. Make it easy for customers
  3. Engage
  4. Learn from the best
  5. Integrate with the business

The full findings of how the insurance sector performed within the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study, along with recommendations for areas to focus on, are available in the Eptica Insurance Guide, which can be downloaded from

The UK versus France – the five key customer experience differences

June 6, 2014 1 comment

As part of a global company I see the increasing importance of the customer experience to businesses in different sectors, all around the world. However, there are also major differences when it comes to preferred local channels, specific requirements and, in some cases, technology.

2014-06-06 15_38_02-The new MCST.pdf - Adobe ReaderThese differences are visible even between two mature markets such as the UK and France. Following the release of the UK Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study earlier in the year, we’ve repeated the research exercise in France, which enables us to draw some interesting conclusions.

In both studies we evaluated leading companies on their ability to provide answers to 10 routine questions via the web as well as their speed and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter and web chat. For the UK we surveyed 100 companies in ten sectors, while in France we expanded this to 110 organisations in 11 sectors.

So how do they compare? The Eptica research found five key differences:

1. The web customer experience is moving in opposite directions
UK websites could provide answers to 63% of questions asked online, compared to just over half (51%) of sites in France. Looking back one year and we can see that UK sites are improving (up from 53% last year), whereas the web customer experience in France is getting worse, falling from 58% to 51%.

2. The UK is ahead when it comes to web self-service
Web self-service systems that make it easier for customers to receive fast, consistent answers to their questions are increasing being implemented on both sides of the channel. However, the UK does appear to be leading the way, with over half (53%) of companies using web self-service, against around a third (34%) in France. In contrast, web chat is offered by an almost identical number of companies – 7.3% in France compared to 7% in the UK.

3. The UK is falling behind on email responses
The number of UK companies allowing non-customers to email them has been falling over the past two years, dropping to 71% in our last study. In contrast, 81% of French companies provided the ability to email them, up from 74% in previous research. French companies also led the way in response rates – only 41% of British companies successfully answered an emailed question, compared to 59% in France.

4. The French embrace Twitter customer service
While over three quarters of companies in both countries are now on Twitter, French brands are using it more effectively. 80% of French companies are on Twitter and successfully responded to 52% of Tweets. In contrast, 76% of UK brands are on the channel, but could only answer 39% of questions tweeted.

5. Consistency is poor on both sides of the Channel
Our research compared answers given across multiple channels (email, Twitter and web chat) to check their consistency. In France 10% of companies provided consistent answers on two channels, with 1% successfully delivering similar responses on three. The results were slightly better in the UK, with 12% of companies providing consistent answers on two channels, though none of the three companies that offered three channels responded consistently on all of them.

We live in an increasingly global economy, where consumers expect the same high standards from organisations, wherever they are located and whatever sector they are in. Therefore, companies in France and The UK – in fact everywhere – need to learn from each other when it comes to the customer experience – or risk losing revenues as consumers take their business elsewhere.

To find out more download the UK Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study here, or the French version here.


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