Irish telcos have worst online customer service on earth


8 Nov 2004

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Irish telcos show a “dramatic disregard” for online customers, a global survey has revealed and are far below the global average in treating customers online. One third of 65 Irish telecom players do not have any privacy policies and absolutely none of them provide websites accessible to users with disabilities.

Communications firm Chorus came in at the bottom of a global survey that charted how well telecommunications players treat their customers online, according to the first Customer Respect Index (CRI). Interestingly, Eircom came in at No 1 among 65 Irish companies in the index with a score of 7.4, while Chorus recorded a score of 2.6.

Maeve Kneafsey, managing director of Elucidate, which holds the licence for the Irish portion of the global CRI, said that the survey demonstrated a dramatic disregard amongst telcos in how they treat those who wish to conduct business online.

Internationally, US telecoms firm Comcast won the international slot with a score of 8.3. In Ireland, Eircom took first place in the survey (7.4). Vodafone Ireland was 2nd with a CRI score of 6.8, slightly ahead of its UK parent. Other well-known names included O2 with a score of 6.0, NTL 5.6, Esat BT 4.5 and Chorus with a global worst CRI of 2.6.

In Ireland, some 67pc of the companies failed to respond to all inquiries, 33pc did not provide any online privacy policies and some 56pc of companies are vague about their opt-in/opt-out policies.

None of the companies provided websites that were accessible to users with disabilities and all failed priority one criteria as set out in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Guidelines.

The average score for telecom companies in Ireland was 5.3, lower than any other country covered, including the US (6.2), Canada (6.6) and the UK (5.7). Globally, the average CRI score for all 65 companies surveyed was 6.2 – in Ireland the bottom five companies averaged only 4.2.

Kneafsey said: “A company’s response, either online or offline, has a direct bearing on whether a customer will do business with them or not. According to the survey, 22pc of Irish companies did not reply to either of the inquiries we submitted while 21pc only replied to one. I believe that none of these companies would find it acceptable not to answer a customer’s question if they were in direct contact, which shows a pretty dramatic disregard for customers who choose to do business online.

“Telecommunications companies in particular should know that using their websites and email to answer customer queries could save huge amounts of time and money. Getting a customer is hard enough work while losing them is all too easy. Since answering a query online should be so easy it is mind-boggling why almost a quarter of large, well-resourced companies, that spend a lot of money in making their websites accessible, still fail to respond to the very people they are trying to attract,” Kneafsey said.

The CRI measures how well companies treat their customers online and has become the standard benchmark among Fortune 1000 companies. The CRI is run by the Cork-based Customer Respect Group, established by well-known Irish technology entrepreneur Donal Daly, whose senior executives include top talent in the areas of human-centred design, psychology, interactive media, web development, software development, project management and product life cycle management.

The CRI is the only such study to bring objective measurement to the analysis of corporate performance online. It is based on research of more than 1,000 companies’ internet presence and has been adopted by many of the US’s biggest companies including FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, Verizon, Expedia, Microsoft, Xerox, Dell, Boston Scientific, AT&T, Anheuser Busch and JP Morgan Chase as well as leading UK and Irish businesses.

The CRI looks at 50 recognised attributes that combine to create the entire online customer experience. These have been grouped together and measured as indicators of Privacy (respects customer privacy), Principles (values and respects customer data) Attitude (customer focus onsite), Transparency (open and honest policies), Simplicity (ease of navigation and content) and Responsiveness (quick and thorough responses to inquiries). Combined they measure a company’s overall CRI.

“Companies have got to learn that poor levels of response online is disrespectful towards customers,” said Tammy Billington, director of operations with CRI.

“Globally, companies received the best rating (7.3) for Simplicity and the worst (4.4) for Responsiveness. Even though each company had a web presence 2pc of all companies provided no online contact at all while 22pc did not respond to any online inquiries. Ironically, the telecommunications sector’s idea of responsiveness was not to respond ‘at all’ to 17pc of all inquiries and I understand that it may come as a surprise to some that NTL Ireland was the best Irish company in terms of responsiveness with an 8.2,” Billington said.

By John Kennedy