The latest eHomeServices Benchmark study from eDigitalResearch reveals a decline in customer service across the sector, with email queries either going unanswered or not being appropriately handled within a 48 hour window.
As customer expectations for e-commerce grow, eDigitalResearch is advising utility providers, broadband suppliers and property companies to better integrate their customer service function or else face losing business.
The study used online mystery shoppers to assess the websites of 21 of the leading organisations across home service providers in the telephones, broadband, utilities and property markets.
The study revealed that more than half of the websites surveyed scored below 50% (‘very poor’) for email customer service. The top performers were British Gas, O2 and Hamptons, who all came in the top four for the relevance and speed of their response to email enquiries.
Derek Eccleston, research director of eDigitalResearch, comments:
“Customers expect to receive the same experience regardless of the channel used. If their emails go unanswered or it takes longer than 48 hours for a company to respond to their enquiry, the customer will take their business elsewhere. Customer expectations are growing all the time and in the highly commoditised sector of home services, where the ubiquity of customer reviews greatly influences pre-purchasing behaviour, it is really easy for customers to switch to a competitor and tell others to do the same if they have received poor customer service.”
The survey assessed websites across the entire online customer experience, from the moment they click onto a home page through to product search, the account area and the supporting customer service function. Overall, homepages were found to be cluttered and uninspiring, with average scores peaking within the account area.
When it comes to managing their accounts, customers expect personalised content in their user areas and over half of the websites didn’t disappoint.
British Gas and Rightmove were particularly praised for their interactive features which helped customers to reduce their energy bills and pinpoint an exact geographical location for their property search.
While interactive features are important, the top performers balanced this with fast page loads, clearly marked menus and tabs for easy navigation and a strong customer service function.
O2 was found to be particularly responsive in dealing with both telephone and email enquiries, with all queries answered quickly and courteously. This helped to propel O2 into second position behind British Gas.
Overall rankings were based on the consistency across all benchmark measures with British Gas and O2 closely contesting the first position, scoring 78.3% and 78.1% respectively.
The variance between the highest and lowest performer was a staggering 27%, suggesting that companies within this sector need to do more to ensure that the customer has a consistent experience from the homepage to the checkout.
“Consistency is key as ensuring that customers have a seamless experience across the multiple touch points will increase loyalty. It is clear from this study that home services businesses need to back up the intuitiveness and usability of their websites with efficient and responsive customer service, otherwise customers will look for better service, as well as better deals, elsewhere.”
To download the full league tables, complete this short survey https://ecustomeropinions.com/survey/survey.php?sid=515946023
or sign up to the benchmarking area on our website for access to this and past studies - www.edigitalresearch.com/benchmarking
An eMysteryShopper survey was conducted during September 2010 to compare the end-to-end usability of 21 leading home services supplier websites.
3 categories were selected for comparison:
Home phone and/or broadband suppliers
Gas and/or electricity suppliers
Property services and/or Estate agents
An eMysteryShopper survey typically covers some 200 quantitative and qualitative questions split under the following headings:
Customer service (telephone/email)
Customer service guidance
The eHomeServices Benchmark is one of a series of benchmark studies covering retail, travel and finance.
For further information, please visit: www.edigitalresearch.com
21 October 2010