The study comes at a time when financial institutions are looking for new ways to improve the customer experience and serve a growing population of younger customers who increasingly interact with businesses through email, chat and the web.
Researchers conducted a "mystery shopping study" of 52 major financial services companies across the UK and Germany.
They tested the quality of online customer service offered by each organisation by attempting to find the answer to a typical customer query through available online channels.
These included any help facilities offered on the companies' websites, and customer service email channels where available.
Simple queries included: 'What savings accounts do you offer?', 'What are the interest rates?' or 'How do you ensure that the internet banking you provide is secure?'.
Just over half of UK financial institutions failed correctly to answer a
simple enquiry through any online channel, either providing an incorrect answer
or no answer at all.
Meanwhile, over a third of the companies surveyed did not provide a contact email address on their website, and almost a fifth did not respond to an email enquiry at all.
While a majority of the UK companies had websites that gave contact telephone numbers and multiple contacts, few provided modern communication methods such as web-forms and none provided a web-chat option.
The exercise also revealed that more work needs to be done to provide channels that protect modern consumers.
Only 29 per cent of banks surveyed provide encrypted and secure communication channels, and over two-thirds provide non-encrypted communication leaving consumers vulnerable to online theft and eavesdropping.
Eddie Keal, financial services team leader at IBM, said: "Firms that enable customers to easily answer their own questions online using searchable FAQs and convenient web 2.0 capabilities, such as social networking software and live chat, can increase customer satisfaction and cross-selling opportunities."
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