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Facing the Truth – Customer Satisfaction Is Not as High as We Think! (Survey Part 2)

This is the  third in a series that looks at what today’s consumers really think of those who serve them and follows on from the posting made on 15th February.

Lots of consumer-facing businesses have spent millions on CRM solutions over the past eight years  in order to improve the way they service their customers. For many of these companies, the majority of that expenditure was directed toward new technologies that, in the interest of cutting customer service costs, largely removed the ‘human factor’ from the service experience. While such technologies generally achieved the goal of saving the company money, they’ve often done little to improve the service experience or quality. In fact, and most critically, in many cases, they’ve alienated customers altogether but often this has been spotted too late when revenue and profits have dropped alarmingly. The feedback from the consumer survey certainly supports this. Of our beleaguered consumers, only 5 percent strongly agreed and 33 percent somewhat agreed that the use of technology has improved the level of service quality significantly in the past five years – to be honest most people don’t care or focus on the technology unless it irritates or causes concern (thanks, IVR). A full 62 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed that technology has helped the cause. Companies spent too much time focusing on inward facing KPIs and congratulating themselves on the rare occasion that leviathan CRM implementations were installed on time and under budget. They haven’t been listening to those most important of people – those with money that want to spend in an appropriate and satisfying way.

Not all customer groups viewed the issue in the same way. 43 percent of US Customers were more likely to believe that technology has improved customer service than those in the UK (35 percent). In the same way, women were slightly more positive than men about technology’s impact on service. When things are boiled down to annual income, it seems that the more money you make, the less patience you have with customer service technology. 42 percent of lower-income respondents somewhat or strongly agreed that technology has improved service, compared with 39 percent of middle income customers and just 31 percent of high-income participants.

Unsurprisingly, the ‘game boy’ generation or our younger consumers were far more positive towards service technology, with just under half (47 percent) agreeing that technology has improved the way that they are looked after. This compares with 36 percent in the middle-age group and just 29 percent of those 55 years of age or older. Companies need to understand where the spending power is and maybe technology should be applied on a ‘horses for courses’ basis, which implies clever technology with regard to identifying individuals or demographic groups and then providing them with the most appropriate means of being looked after, technologically speaking.

The negative views of technology’s impact on service were further revealed by the answers that were given to questions about satisfaction with various types of customer service. Overall, customers were least satisfied with ‘service’ delivered via automated phone systems (or death by a thousand finger strokes), one of the more common results of companies’ focus on cost reduction without finding out their customers views on such systems first. Just fewer than 60 percent said they were not at all satisfied with how they were treated by such systems, while only 10 percent said they are satisfied or very satisfied.

Another service that relies heavily on technology is that which is driven by email based interactions. This method fared much better in the survey than automated phone systems, as 44 percent of customers said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with it and 38 percent noted being somewhat satisfied. In a similar ‘non-voice’ vein, the emerging concept of service via a live online chat function is beginning to gain favour with some customers, as just over half of survey respondents reported being somewhat satisfied, satisfied or very satisfied. However, unlike other service options, chat has a long way to go and still has to achieve widespread penetration among most customer groups, especially those in the Unitied Kingdom. A full 40 percent of all survey participants (47 percent in the UK and 32 percent in the US) said they couldn’t comment on their satisfaction with service via online chat because they hadn’t used it yet.

The big winner in most customers’ eyes is still being able to discuss their issues with a service agent face to face. 60 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with customer service when it was delivered in person. Again, a larger percentage of US customers (64 percent) compared to 56 percent of UK consumers, but there was little difference in the responses when viewed by gender, income or age. Human beings therefore still do and should always, in our opinion have a key part to play in delivering excellent customer service but in order to do this properly, appropriate processes and technology need to be deployed to release humans to carry out the high value, high return tasks in the customer service value chain

Author: Tim Easton - Published: 01 March 2007


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