UK’s corporate websites just aren’t up to scratch

UK’s corporate websites just aren’t up to scratch

With the release of a number of damning reports slamming the online presence of top UK businesses, it’s been a bad month for corporate Britain.

For starters, a rather embarrassing survey commissioned by Comrange and carried out by the European Centre for Customer Strategies (ECCS), discovered that more than half of UK and European companies have no idea what return on investment (ROI) they make from their websites.

According to the report, the problem is so bad that some companies are ploughing more than £1m a year into online running costs - without a clue whether or not they're getting value for money.

While two-thirds said they generated sales through their websites, a similar number said they failed to cash in.

"The survey shows that over half the websites are little better than financial black holes into which money is poured never to return," says David Harvey, director of ECCS and author of the survey.

Hot on the heels of this report came the publication of the Customer Respect Index (CRI), which ranked the websites of the UK's top 100 companies according to 90 different factors relating to the customer experience.

Top of the league table came companies such as Legal & General, Abbey National, Yell and BT, which topped the list with a CRI of 9.0 or more. However, Dixon’s ranked bottom with a score of just 2.0.

The CRI found that a fifth of UK companies failed to respond to online queries, while two in ten took more than three days to respond.

According to the CRI, UK firms just don't have the same respect among consumers as their US counterparts. While the average CRI score for the top 100 US companies is 7.0, the UK's FTSE 100 only manages 6.3.

"The worst issue that the report highlights is a lack of responsiveness," said James MacAonghus, research director at Aqute Research, a company that supplies the Customer Respect Index in the UK.

"A company website is increasingly becoming the first point of contact for many customers. If you email a company from its Web site and receive no reply, it's the equivalent of being ignored by a shop assistant when you ask a question. That's no way for a company to treat its online customers."

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, testing firm SciVisum, announces that four out of five leading British websites fail even the most basic accessibility compliance standards.

Looking at 105 UK organisations with a major web presence, testing firm SciVisum, found that the worst performers were travel and finance sites - all of which failed to reach the lowest standard of compliance.

High Street retailers and utilities were not much better - more than 90 per cent failed accessibility tests.

British organisations are supposed to take reasonable action to make sure that their websites are accessible to all, under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.

Deri Jones, CEO of SciVisum, said in a statement:" Those organisations that are failing to ensure accessibility are slamming the door in the face of a highly receptive on-line market.

There are an estimated 1.7 million blind and partially sighted people in the UK alone, not to mention an aging population.

Over 20 per cent of elderly people shop online, many with deteriorating eyesight.

A dark day for corporate Britain indeed, but there are some valuable lessons to be learned, namely that cheaper doesn’t necessarily make for a more cheerful online experience.

The British public are less likely to tolerate bad online customer service now than at any time in the past, so why bother spending millions every year on brand design, marketing strategies and advertising, yet fall at the first point of customer contact. Corporate Britain, get real.

Sources: Aqute Research, Comrange, SciVisum, The European Centre for Customer Strategies, The Register

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