It's Time to Beef up Your Online Customer Experience

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Consumers want to interact online, but companies aren't serving their needs.

It's Time to Beef up Your Online Customer Experience
It's Time to Beef up Your Online Customer Experience

Let's face it, online is the front door to many businesses. It's how people often start and prefer to handle their interactions. But online channels still leave a lot to be desired. Marketers who want to retain their online customers need to focus on their organizations' online experiences.

Consumers prefer online channels

In a recent Temkin Group report, we examined channel preferences for 11 common activities ranging from applying for a new credit card to buying a book. In almost every category, consumers prefer to perform those activities online rather than in person, on the phone, or via their mobile device. Checking the delivery status of a purchase was the most popular online activity, with 71% of respondents preferring to use their computer to do so, while investigating a phone bill error and opening an investment account were the least popular with less than one third (31%) opting to complete these tasks via desktop.

The one exception to this online preference seems to be when there are perceived consequences for mistakes. For example, 66% of respondents would rather open a new investment account either in person or over the phone, and 62% prefer people to help them select a life insurance policy or investigate a mistake on their cell phone bill.

But Web experiences aren't very good

So how well are companies doing online? To answer this question, let's look at the “2014 Temkin Web Experience Ratings.” In its fourth year, these ratings evaluated 222 companies across 19 industries based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

It turns out that only 13% of firms earned “strong” or “very strong” ratings, while 55% earned “weak” or “very weak” ratings. USAA's banking business took the top spot and Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) earned the second highest rating. Rounding out the top 13 companies in the ratings are Charles Schwab, Amazon.com, credit unions, TD Bank, U.S. Bank, Sheraton, Ace Hardware, eBay, and Nordstrom.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the award for delivering the worst Web experience goes to Coventry Health Care, followed closely by Medicaid. In fact, four of the bottom 14 organizations are health plans and three are TV service providers. The remaining companies in the bottom 14 are Charter Communications, Comcast (TV service and Internet service), Dunkin' Donuts, Time Warner Cable (TV service and Internet service), Jack in the Box, CareFirst, MetroPCS, Highmark, Adobe, and Wendy's.

Banks were the only industry to receive an average rating of “strong,” while seven industries were rated “OK.” TV service providers, Internet service providers, and health plans were all “very poor.”

Online experiences may not be great today, but they are getting better. Led by airlines, which increased by nearly 15 percentage points since last year, 17 of 19 industries improved. The two industries that earned lower ratings in 2014 are parcel delivery services and rental cars. Additionally, nearly two thirds of the organizations that were in both the 2013 and 2014 rating improved this year. On average, firms earned an increase of 3.2 percentage points.

The “Temkin Web Experience Ratings” shows that there's significant opportunity for companies to improve their Web experiences. Given the growing importance of this channel, marketers should push their firms to beef up the experience. 

The bottom line: Don't let online customer experiences hurt your brand.
  Bruce Temkin, managing partner and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting company. He is widely viewed as a leading expert in customer experience.
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