Online Customer Service: Enraging or Engaging?

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15 April 2002


New York, NY, USA April 15, 2002


A recent survey of 100 top US financial institutions finds that most are doing a dismal job of turning prospects that utilize the Web channel into customers. In a new report, entitled ?, Celent Communications examines the current state of Web-based customer service and finds that only 33 percent of financial institutions are providing "good" responses that are both informative and engaging. Forty-two percent of financial institutions provide "poor" responses that suffer from a number of drawbacks, including limited informative value and technical glitches. A shocking 23 percent simply ignore queries initiated on their Web sites, leaving customers stranded in cyberspace without any interaction.

"Posing as highly-qualified mystery shoppers, Celent staff initiated several queries at the Web sites of leading banks, brokerages, and insurance companies," describes Meredith Outwater, author of the report. "Unfortunately, what we found is that most financial institutions are either ignoring these warm leadsor failing to provide useful responses to bring these prospects on board as customers."

Ms. Outwater goes on to add, "It is bewildering that these financial institutions spend millions of dollars on telemarketing efforts to target people that have shown no interest in the firms' products and services to date, and yet they do not return e-mail requests for additional information to interested and affluent parties. Clearly, there is a disconnect between business strategies, supporting technical solutions, and organizational structures."

There were a number of firms that bucked the trend and did provide solid responses for each query and, on several occasions, even followed-up their initial response with second touch to further entice the prospect. Those financial institutions providing the best Web-based service are:

Table 1: Top Ten Web-based Customer Service Providers

The report includes survey data on response format, timeliness of responses, attributes of both "good" and "poor" responses, penetration rates of firm痴 that followed-up, benefits and disadvantages of live chat capabilities, a breakdown by industry segment, and suggestions for financial institutions to improve their web-based customer service.

A Table of Contents is available online.


Financial Institution


Putnam Investments

2 Liberty Mutual
3 American Century
4 Datek*
5 Ameritrade
6 TD Waterhouse
7 Aetna
8 BB&T Bank
9 Fidelity Investments
10 Janus
*Note: Datek is scheduled to be acquired by Ameritrade. Source: Celent Survey: Web based Customer Service

of Celent Communication's Retail Banking, Retail Securities & Investments, and Life/Health Insurance research services can download the report electronically by clicking on the icon to the left.