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Customer Service Shortcomings Still Dominate – Survey Findings Part 1

Last time in the blog posted on 30th January, we talked about ensuring that you, as a provider of goods and services, understood the importance of the following ratio- People (i.e. Consumers): Processes: Technology – in the context of creating a great customer service experience. To that end, we described the importance of continually understanding how your customers feel about you plus how they feel about the treatment they receive from other players in your market place.

A survey in 2006 showed some revealing results. In general, responses from consumers who took part revealed many key opportunities for companies to improve the way in which they serve their customers. For instance, customers in the United States and the United Kingdom spend an average of six minutes on hold when seeking assistance via a telephone help line. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they typically wait between five and 10 minutes, while 14 percent said they wait for longer than 10 minutes before they can speak to a live person. Furthermore, 87 percent of participants said they speak to multiple representatives when calling customer service, with most speaking to two (37 percent) or three (32 percent) representatives to resolve their issue. Incredibly, 13 percent said they deal with four or five representatives, and an additional 2 percent actually must work through six to 10 people before they can declare victory and are no doubt left dazed , confused and exhausted by the experience.

It shouldn’t really be a huge shock to learn that the two most maddening aspects of dealing with customer service agents that most people identified are (1) Being kept on hold too long and (2) Being asked to repeat information to multiple representatives. Third on the frustration list is agents’ inability to answer customers’ questions, closely followed by their attempts to sell customers other services or products – especially when customers are contacting companies to resolve issues and problems!

If those latter issues are in the ‘Premier League’ of consumer irritants, then here comes the Championship promotion hopefuls. These include: service agents’ inflexibility, their slowness to respond and an unfriendly and abrupt nature nature, as well as the lack of tailored solutions being offered and the frequency of agents’ computer systems being inoperable when a customer calls.

Customers in the UK are more likely than their U.S. counterparts to find it frustrating when they are kept on hold too long, service agents are inflexible and slow to respond, and their computer systems are inoperable at the moment a customer contacts them. A greater percentage of respondents in the US than the UK reported being turned off by representatives’ cross-selling or up-selling but that’s probably down to the British problem of not wanting to be seen to complain! That said,UK consumers are more than likely to finish a call before the agent can finish the sales pitch.

Frustration also differs among other customer subgroups. For instance, a higher percentage of women than men reported being frustrated by nearly all of the customer service shortcomings just discussed. Younger people are more likely than middle-aged and older respondents to dislike cross-selling and up-selling. And high-income respondents are more likely than mid- and low-income customers to find representatives’ inability to answer questions and provide tailored solutions frustrating – but are less likely to be turned off by cross-selling or up-selling.

All in all, the indications are that the phone is a tool that people feel obliged to use in order to contact companies that supply them but the experiences are not often wonderful and a savvy company looking to ‘up’ it’s ability to serve it’s customers better will be looking to other communication methods to provide this.

Author: Tim Easton - Published: 15 February 2007


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