Has the web customer experience come of age?

30th Jul 2014

Over half (52%) of consumers say they will abandon an online purchase if they can’t find an answer quickly to their question according to Forrester Research[1]. Therefore it’s vital that all customer-facing businesses provide users with the ability to find information quickly and easily on their websites. Most customers don’t want to switch from the web to pick up the phone, email an organisation or take to Twitter unless they really have to. When they do, it’s often because their channel of choice has failed to provide them with what they need.

Online performance is improving
Given the vital importance of the web to all organisations, how good are UK businesses at providing the right customer experience to consumers? To find out, the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience study looked at 100 of the UK’s most prominent companies across ten key sectors including retail, travel, utilities and financial services. We searched for answers to ten routine questions via the company’s site and then measured if they actually answered the query satisfactorily or the customer would need to change channel to get the information needed.

Overall we found that companies are improving their online performance. Whereas Britain’s top 100 companies could only answer an average of 53% of questions online last year, this figure has jumped up to 63%. This has a major efficiency benefit – reducing calls and emails to the contact centre by 10% delivers large scale savings. However, while this is a step in the right direction, it still means over a third of questions remain unanswered – and the research found significant differences in performance between and within sectors.

On a positive note, 59% of companies have improved since 2012, although a fifth (20%) could only respond to four or fewer questions. However, most brands are simply providing average service – 58% of companies scored between five and seven out of ten.

It is important to stress that the leading companies in the survey were not clustered in just a single sector. The 22% of companies that answered eight or more questions (up from 17% last year) were spread across nine different sectors, often with just one or two high achievers.

Looking at the ten sectors surveyed, fashion retailers continue to set the standard. Here’s a full breakdown of how each group fared:


2013 % answered online (position)

2012 % answered online (position)

Fashion Retail

79% (1st)

75% (1st)

Consumer Electronics Manufacturers

70% (2nd)

55% (6th)


68% (3rd)

63% (2nd)


66% (4th)

60% (3rd)


64% (5th)

41% (8th)


63% (6th)

56% (5th)


57% (7th=)

48% (7th)

Food Retail

57% (7th=)

40% (9th)

Electronics Retail

52% (9th=)

58% (4th)


52% (9th=)

40% (9th)


The growth of web self-service
Much of the overall improvement in the online customer experience is due to the rise in web self-service. Whilst in 2012 just 35% of companies offered it to consumers, this figure has now leapt to well over half (53%). It is no coincidence that 80% of banks have web self-service, and saw a 23% increase in performance, while just 20% of travel companies have such systems, and only improved by 5%. If the 10% rise in successful responses via the web is translated into a corresponding drop in calls, emails and tweets received by agents in contact centres the savings should be significant.

Web self-service helps by providing intelligent, consistent and fast answers. When customers are browsing the Internet, gathering information about their available choices, self-service means that customers can easily find the answers they require, without needing to contact a company via other channels. Consumers are empowered to ask questions in their own words and receive fast, accurate answers from a continually updated knowledgebase. In some cases we’ve found that it can reduce inbound emails by half and cut incoming calls by 30%. By resolving queries first time, customers are happier, more engaged and more likely to proceed with a purchase.

From an operational point of view the business benefits by being able to run a more streamlined customer service function, freeing up resources to concentrate on revenue generating activities. Another advantage is that each time a question is asked, a wealth of insight is generated. Companies can see what customers are asking and use this to better understand the information, products and services that consumers want.

Valuable margin and goodwill is eroded if customers are forced to other channels to find information. If customers can’t find the answers they want on the web, companies risk losing their interest. With the rise of mobile devices and faster data connections, websites are set to become even more important. Companies therefore need to focus on delivering a consistent, accurate and compelling experience via this channel, across multiple devices. The results of the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study are encouraging, but for many sectors and companies there is still a long way to go. You can find the full study report on our website at http://www.eptica.com/multichannel-study-2014-website.html.

[1] Source Forrester Omni-Channel Communications Technology Adoption Profile


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