Home Service companies need to be more responsive to online customers

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Almost half (41%) of all email enquires went unanswered in the latest eHomeServices benchmark report from eDigitalResearch, despite companies increasingly expecting customers to independently self serve using online account tools

The study from market research specialists eDigitalResearch, found that only 6 of the 20 sites benchmarked managed to score above 50% for email contact as customers became increasingly frustrated with unhelpful or delayed responses, compared with a top score of 87.8% for the account area, reaffirming that users expect added customer support, as well as innovative website tools.

Derek Eccleston, Research Director at eDigitalResearch, explains, “It is essential that home service companies are providing adequate customer support, especially as more and more utility providers are offering online users the ability to view balances and make payments, as well as pioneering other website features, such as nPower’s innovative price comparison tool.

Online customers now expect certain standards when it comes to website usability and the supporting customer contact. As these expectations continue to grow with the rise of MEcommerce, where users are now dictating to companies where, when and how they want to interact, it is vital that home service sites take the necessary steps to provide online customers an experience they have now come to expect, especially before they start looking for a better experience and better deals elsewhere".

The eHomeServices benchmark report assesses the entire end to end customer journey across 20 of the leading home service, utility and property websites. Unsurprisingly, email customer service was the lowest performing area throughout the study, with an average satisfaction score of just 45%. Customers were also disappointed on first impressions, with homepages found to be uninspiring and difficult to navigate, and only managing to score an average of 69.6%.

Telecoms provider O2 topped the overall league tables for the first time with an overall score of 76% and a well rounded performance across the entire end to end customer journey, including their customer service. Shoppers were particularly impressed with O2’s friendly and professional telephone customer service, as well as their prompt and detailed email responses.

Gas and electric companies were the highest performing sector, with nPower, Southern Electric, British Gas and E.ON all completing the top five. Customers particularly rated these top providers simple yet functional account area’s that included detailed and relevant information, as well as a variety of helpful tools to check energy use and bills.

On comparison, property sites were the worst performing sector overall, with eight out of the nine benchmarked only making it into the bottom half of the table. Those that did particularly poorly were unable to offer online users basic website usability features that are expected nowadays, such as relevant and detailed search facilities, easy-to-navigate pages, and prominent contact details. For sites that now allow users to complete entire property searches online, it is crucial that they provide the basic websites essentials and necessary customer contact to support this.

Home service providers are still lagging behind other eDigitalResearch industry benchmark standards. However, the gap between scores is less than that in the eRetail, eTravel, eFinance and mCommerce benchmark studies, suggesting that utility providers have a greater opportunity to differentiate themselves from their closest competitors across the industry as a whole and increase their market share.

For a copy of the results presentation, including the full league tables, please complete the following short survey; https://ecustomeropinions.com/survey/survey.php?sid=516954260 . Alternatively please log in or sign up to the benchmarking area of the eDigitalResearch website; http://www.edigitalresearch.com/benchmarking.

For more information please contact Lisa Bonczyk on +44 (0)1489 772920 or email lisa(dot)b(at)edigitalresearch(dot)com

Methodology

  •     An eMysteryShopper survey was conducted during February 2011 to compare the end-to-end usability of 20 leading home services supplier websites.
  •     3 categories were selected for comparison:

o    Home phone and/or broadband suppliers
o    Gas and/or electricity suppliers
o    Property services and/or Estate agents

  •     An eMysteryShopper survey typically covers some 200 quantitative and qualitative questions split under the following headings:

o    Home page
o    Product research
o    Account area
o    Customer service (telephone/email)
o    Customer service guidance
o    Final assessment

  •     The eHomeServices Benchmark is one of a series of benchmark studies covering retail, travel and finance.

About eDigitalResearch
eDigitalResearch is a leading provider of digital market research, enabling customers to make critical business decisions with the benefit of comprehensive consumer insight and informed direction. eDigitalResearch possesses a unique combination of research expertise, marketing background, web technology and knowledge of the cross-channel consumer. As well as providing invaluable research data, the modules of its fully integrated research system - ratings, surveys, panels, communities and forums - can combine to provide holistic analytics and essential market-leading insight. This gives its clients the power, confidence and backup to make crucial decisions on key aspects of their business including product range, marketing, customer service, supply chain, even basic positioning. For further information, please visit: http://www.edigitalresearch.com.

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Lisa Bonczyk
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