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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 2018

UK customers contact brands nearly half a billion times every month at £1.227 billion cost

New research highlights the growing volume of consumer queries that UK brands now need to handle, and the increasing cost this imposes on companies. The average UK consumer now contacts organisations nine times per month, according to research undertaken as part of the 2018 Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study.

Across the adult population this means brands need to respond to 463.5 million contacts every month, and the figure is rising. 88 per cent of those surveyed said they now contact companies more or the same number of times as five years ago – with 16 per cent getting in touch more than twice as often.

Increasingly, consumers are happy to embrace self-service channels where they can find their own answers, without needing to contact brands through email, the telephone, chat or social media. 83 per cent already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyse queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website, while over half (54 per cent) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64 per cent also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.

Using industry average figures from analysts Contact Babel, answering these queries costs the UK economy £1.227 billion across the telephone, web, email, social media and chat channels. This is made up of £440.44m (email), £236.98m (social media), £211.99m (chat) and £338.31m (telephone). In contrast automated channels such as self-service, chatbots and voice assistants have a negligible cost per interaction once they are in place.

“Delivering an excellent customer experience is crucial to every organisation today. However, our research shows the scale of the challenge brands face, with consumers getting in contact nearly half a billion times every month in the UK,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Clearly many of these conversations are complex and require the human touch, but others could be automated, speeding up the process for consumers and increasing efficiency for brands.”

Demonstrating the multichannel nature of today’s customer experience, on average each UK consumer used email for 27 per cent of their interactions by brands, followed by web self-service, telephone and social media (17 per cent) each, with 11 per cent of contacts through chat and chatbots respectively.

“Reducing the number of contacts by 10 per cent would save over £122 million – enabling companies to focus resources where they are needed most. Our research shows that consumers are open to embracing new AI-powered technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots, providing an opportunity to improve the experience and reduce costs at the same time,” added Njamfa.

With customers looking to interact more with brands, with a wider range of queries, it is vital for brands to balance AI and the use of human agents. AI-based automation is key to delivering faster, more consistent and efficient responses, particularly for routine queries. This frees up agents to focus on more complex, detailed queries where human skills such as empathy are best deployed, boosting engagement and brand reputation.