By Daniel Hunter

A survey of more than 2000 consumers and businesses across Britain found that most companies, while happy to take their customer’s cash for products and services over the Internet, are failing to deliver an online customer service experience to match.

The survey, commissioned by live chat software provider Netop, found that today’s customers want to connect fast, and engage live with a human customer service representative at their bank, building society, retailer, grocer or indeed any other provider they use.

Customers also prefer to engage online, from the comfort of their own home, using a tool such as live chat to help avoid call centre misunderstandings that arise from unintelligible accents.

Despite these findings, the vast majority (93%) of UK businesses are failing to take advantage of live chat to enhance their customers’ service experience.

Instead, customers are relegated to using traditional and archaic customer service methods to get satisfaction, typically queuing on the phone (75%) or waiting for a response to an email (71%). Meanwhile, a surprisingly high number of people (22%) still rely on old-fashioned pen and paper to get their voice heard.

When comparing the advantages of live chat over these other customer service channels almost three-quarters (73%) said being held in a long phone queue was their biggest pet hate. Meanwhile, well over half (57%) said they disliked phone calls that were routed between different departments.

Just over half (52%) think that live chat would finally bring an end to listening to interminable ‘hold music’ played while they wait for someone to answer the phone. A similar amount (54%) felt that live chat could eliminate any issues due to strong regional or foreign accents at the call centre.

However, although consumers believe that live chat can solve many customer service headaches and irritations, just 7 percent of British companies actually offer an online chat facility on their website today. Yet, despite the limited availability of live chat in Britain, it was used last year by more than a quarter (28%) of those surveyed suggesting that wherever a live chat option can be found on a website, it will be heavily used.

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