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72% of UK online businesses are uncontactable by phone – a big problem for consumers

Online companies in the UK are making it near-impossible for customers to contact them on the phone, causing customers anxiety or serious stress. 

According to new research from MaxContact, which audited the contact options at 50 of the UK’s most popular online brands, more than a quarter (28%) of the UK’s 50 top online brands don’t have a phone number on their website, and almost half (45%) don’t even have a ‘contact us’ link on the homepage. 

This includes some of the UK’s biggest online brands including Trainline, ASOS, Just Eat and Skyscanner.  

For the majority of companies (60%), customers have to trawl through FAQs or the help section of the website in order to find any contact information, and over a third (35%) only supply this if you log in to your account.  

Poor contact options impacting customers’ finances  

Almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers surveyed believe that companies are deliberately making it harder for them to get in touch with them to avoid having to invest time in helping them2. A further 81% believe this is due to failing to recruit enough staff and becoming fixated on cutting costs2.  

However, the consequences for customers go much further than simple inconvenience. Over a third (38%) said that poor service had caused them anxiety or serious stress. Worse, 40% of customers have had to cut back on spending because they struggled to contact an online-only company, for example because they were delayed in reclaiming money from a refund. Two fifths have even had to cut back on daily essentials including food and toiletries (41%) and energy use (38%)2.  

Almost half (43%) of customers are also worried that if they have problems with online-only brands ahead of Christmas, they won’t be able to get a resolution in time before the big day.  

Bad news for businesses 

But it’s not just customers who are suffering. Companies also stand to lose business with customers completely losing faith in customer service teams desire, or ability, to help them. Almost a fifth (18%) of those surveyed said that they had abandoned a purchase or switched to another brand because they couldn’t get an answer quickly – equivalent to £14.8bn of the £82.2bn predicted Christmas spend this year.  

However, there is a huge opportunity for those that get it right – the vast majority of customers (85%) say they would be more likely to shop again with a company who made it easy to contact them.  

Ben Booth, MaxContact CEO, says: “Great customer service is all about making sure your customers can get in contact with you when they need to and resolve their query quickly and efficiently. Get this wrong and customers are happy to take their business to a competitor who is willing to talk to them.  

“There’s no one size fits all solution. Sometimes a phone call is absolutely the right way to best help customers – especially when dealing with complex or sensitive cases such as a refund dispute or financial problem. A helpful and knowledgeable agent will reassure customers that their issue is in good hands. But for simple, quick queries, phone calls can be laborious, and customers prefer webchat or email to get quick answers to a question without waiting on hold.  

“Having an omnichannel customer engagement platform supporting staff also helps make query resolution more efficient and drives down costs at a difficult time, as well as delivering for customers. The key is understanding your unique customer base to get the balance right.” 

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