Gerry quoted a 2008 benchmarking study by the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) which collected data from a number of local councils across the UK.
Their research suggested that the average cost of a web interaction is 27 pence, the average cost of a phone interaction is £3.76 and the average cost of a face-to-face interaction is £9.34.
Digging around a bit more (both on the web and on the members-only public sector Communities of Practice forum) I found more figures from SOCITM and other local government collectives investigating the same costs. These follow on studies covered 2009 and 2010, as well as sub-groups in the North West of England and in Wales.
They all said the same - the cost of customer service via the web is significantly cheaper than in person or on the phone.
Across 5 different studies looking at the cost of dealing with enquiries and transactions the web was:
- between 88 and 93% cheaper than phone, and
- between 95 and 97% cheaper than in person.
When detail was present alongside the costs, the figures always related to median values and covered samples of between 52 and 85 different councils.
In his article, Gerry says:
Properly managed, your website is the most cost-effective environment in which your customers can complete their tasks.Note the magic words there - "properly managed..."
The web is almost always the poor relation in customer service. Often managed by techies or by overworked people with full time jobs already. It's an afterthought. Or even worse, it's a victim of vanity publishing and print publication practices.
It can only deliver these kinds of savings when it's customer focused and user friendly - closely managed to reflect end user requirements and clear business priorities.
Also reported alongside one of the sets of figures I came across were some customer satisfaction ratings where phone ranged from 89 to 99%, in person from 80 to 95%, and the web from 48 to 49%. (Source: The Socitm Insight Channel Value Benchmarking Service leaflet 2009)
Which, I think, makes the point perfectly.
Your website can thrive in a recession - article by Gerry McGovern
Socitm calls for council web channel switch - article on Guardian newspaper website
Web improvement and channel shift - presentation at SOCITM 2010 by Lee Gripton and Ceri Evans on Slideshare
Managing The Web In A Recession - white paper by Lisa Welchman