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Help yourself

Effective online help systems and careful attention to the details of the consumer experience are a driver of revenue for e-gaming operators, not just a cost, writes Barnaby Page


he ever-growing amount of information available online, and the mushrooming number of ways to access it, has not only had an impact on the way we engage with

consumers: it is also reshaping their expectations of customer service. And this has great significance for online gaming operators, particularly those who hope to secure the patronage of players relatively unaccustomed to gambling. If we don’t make it easy for them to learn how to use our products – both in understanding the actual games, and in handling “housekeeping” tasks like registration, deposits and withdrawals – they will very likely go elsewhere. This is underlined by new research among

more than 1500 European consumers, conducted for Britain’s Artificial Solutions, a supplier of virtual assistant technology. (You know – the online help systems that provide answers to questions typed in ordinary English, usually represented by a youngish-lady icon with a Stepfordesque smile and a worrying resemblance to Anna, the alien queen from V.) Unsurprisingly, given its sponsor, the

research is bullish on virtual assistants. Four out of five consumers would be willing to use one if it got them answers faster; nearly a third, indeed, had already used such a system, and most found it helpful. But whether you employ one of these or not,

the evidence that Web-based help is a real driver of business rather than just a nice-to- have is inescapable. It’s the first port of call for the confused consumer: a full 96 per cent said that they would try to find answers online before resorting to other means such as email or phone help lines. (That’s no doubt because most people surveyed considered the wait for a call pick-up or an email reply to be too long.)

54 DECEMBER 2011 And it does affect their perception of the

business, which in turn means it is a factor in whether they become – or remain – customers. Three quarters of the consumers surveyed said that interactive, online help providing an immediate response to their query would have a strong effect on their decision to use that company. If help wasn’t that easy to obtain, a quarter of consumers would definitely abandon you for a competitor, while a further 63 per cent would at least consider it. Those are sobering numbers. “Over 90 per cent of people in the survey said

they wanted to access information immediately. Unfortunately for businesses, well over half the people found the Website’s search facilities and FAQs sadly lacking,” said Andy Peart, Chief Marketing Officer of Artificial Solutions.

Five per cent of companies confessed that they do not monitor their Websites at all

Wrong, wrong, wrong

Another piece of recent European research also points up the importance of getting it right, whether on a transactional Website (like an e-gaming one) or your corporate site. This survey was conducted for Magus, a firm specialising in “automated compliance monitoring for multi-editor Websites”, which is what it sounds like. It found that an astonishing 87 per cent of the 200 large companies it studied acknowledge errors on their sites, including inconsistent branding, poor usability, and accessibility problems.

Branding errors were the biggest area of

failure, cited by more than half, closely followed by spelling mistakes. Around 40 per cent admitted to usability and accessibility problems. “The survey also indicates that Web editors see a sharp correlation between poor online customer experiences and company income,” said Magus. Why does this kind of snafu still happen, in

an era when the Web is such a central part of most businesses? Well, a third of respondents said they don’t have a clear strategy for Website governance, and more than two thirds agreed their approach to quality assurance online isn’t up to scratch. Five per cent even confessed that they do not monitor their Web sites at all. “The implications of this survey are clear,” said Simon Lande, CEO of Magus. “Manual quality assurance processes and disconnected toolsets [for example, separate spell-checkers and link-checkers, rather than an integrated tool] are simply inadequate to the demands of today’s distributed multi-editor environments, and are putting companies’ reputation and revenue at risk. Companies with global Web operations need to complement their content management systems with a process of enterprise-level quality and compliance monitoring and analysis. Until this lesson is learned they will continue to put significant amounts of revenue and profit at risk.” Again, there is of course an element of “he

would say that, wouldn’t he” here. But take these comments in tandem with the Artificial Solutions research, and the report that we featured in October’s news pages relating how frustrating customer experiences are driving consumers away from mobile commerce, and the lesson is clear: you do need to sweat the details.

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