UK firms fail to use online channels to deal with customer queries, IBM finds


Companies are failing to use digital channels to interact in real time with their customers and 83% of UK businesses still use telephone contact centres as their primary way of dealing with enquiries, a new study by IBM and Forrester has revealed.

Consumers increasingly expect and prefer to interact with companies via online channels but only 33% of UK companies currently offer online live help, said researchers.

The study reveals the majority of UK companies are behind the multi-channel consumer curve. Some of the other key statistics in the study include:

  • Only 43% of UK companies offer mobile or tablet optimised sites
  • Only 39% of UK companies offer information, purchase or customer service focused apps
  • Only 305 of UK businesses measure and track online behaviours to inform customer service
  • 30% of UK business don’t have any immediate plans to use social media platforms to enable consumers to research company information before buying products

James Lovell, European smarter commerce consultant at IBM, said: “Many companies are still using contact centres as their primary means of communicating in real time with their customers, despite growing frustration with protracted hold times, complicated call menus and unhelpful staff. Consumers clearly want to use online channels to not only research products, but also interact with and find out more information about a company. Without this ease of access, consumers could quickly move on to more socially savvy competitors.

“Embracing digital channels can also be more cost efficient for businesses. Setting up online help forums and giving customers more ways to self-service online can save on contact centre costs and allow for more flexible customer service. This transition to an online customer service model will require greater collaboration across the business, and in particular much closer integration between the company’s marketing and IT departments.”