UK businesses are losing billions per year as customers defect to companies that can offer better a customer service and experience, according to new research.
Poor customer service is costing UK businesses a massive £15.3bn per year as customers defect and abandon their purchases, new research has revealed.
Financial services, utilities and telecommunications firms are at most economic risk from poor customer service, according to The Cost of Poor Customer Service: The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience, a report conducted by Greenfield Online and sponsored by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories in collaboration with industry analysts at Datamonitor and Ovum.
A total of 514 UK-based consumers were asked about the frequency of their interactions with businesses via the web, contact centres and mobile devices. They were also asked to identify the impact of those interactions on their purchasing decisions. The survey group identified their service priorities and indicated the changes most needed for improving the quality of their customer service experiences.
In addition to the £15.3bn loss to the UK economy due to poor customer service, the survey also uncovered that:
- 73% of consumers ended a relationship due to a poor customer experience.
- The average value of each lost relationship is £248 per year.
- 39% of consumers said it is critical for companies to provide more intelligent self-service so they are not trapped in unproductive automated systems.
- 83% of consumers welcome more proactive engagement if it improves their experiences.
"With the rise of social media and increased consumer awareness, the cost of customer frustration continues to grow,” said Daniel Hong, lead analyst of customer interaction at Ovum. “We're advising enterprise businesses in the UK to develop cohesive strategies that straddle all channels of customer communication.
“The difference between delivering exceptional customer service and merely providing acceptable service is pronounced. Differentiating on service, especially in service-centric industries such as finance and telecommunications, is how enterprises can retain customers in today's challenging business climate."
The industries in which enterprises in the UK are suffering the biggest losses are financial services, utilities and telecommunications, which lose substantially more customers than companies in other industries, according to the report.
Nearly a quarter of consumers said they abandoned a financial services company or utility in the past year. Even industries that were previously safe from competition, such as utilities, must now pay closer attention to the customer experience.
Younger consumers are more likely to end relationships based on poor customer service than older consumers, the research found. Survey participants who end a business relationship said they take their business to a competitor 66% of the time, with the other 34% of their business is completely abandoned.
The root of poor customer service
The survey revealed the following significant root causes of poor customer service based on consumer sentiment:
- Having to repeat information.
- Feeling trapped in automated self-service.
- Being forced to wait too long for service.
- Interacting with representatives who have no knowledge of the service history (or consumer value).
- Unable to easily switch between communication channels.
The most challenging communication channel is voice self-service. Nearly half (41%) of consumers cite voice self-service as the most challenging communications channel, compared to only 1% who find it most satisfying. In addition, 39% of consumers said it is critical to improve voice self-service to make it integrate more intelligently with human assisted service.
In customer service experiences where the consumer was ‘trapped’ in an automated system, consumers spent, on average, more than 10 minutes trying to reach a live agent. Even paper-based mail, which can be a considerably slower communications channel, is preferable to poorly implemented voice self-service systems.
Consumers say the biggest issues influencing their perception of voice self-service have to do with automated systems not recognising their unique value to the company, the lack of context during the interaction, and the need to more effectively recognise customer needs and intent.
Greatest sources of customer satisfaction
Consumers were also asked to identify the factors that make the biggest difference in improving satisfaction levels. According to the data, consumer satisfaction increases when companies meet four key needs:
- Proactive engagement
More than 83% of consumers defined proactive engagement as a “strong benefit” or would “welcome proactive assistance” when stuck on the web or in some form of self-service.
“Most businesses understand that turning the customer experience into an emotional engagement adds value to their brand and results in consumers who are more loyal and satisfied,” said Keith Pearce, senior director of EMEA marketing at Genesys. “It is important for businesses to continually gain perspective on the changing nature of customer service, as well as consumer perceptions of it."
About Louise Druce
Louise is a freelance online editor and features writer. An NCTJ-trained journalist, she began her career as a reporter for the Weston & Somerset Mercury newspaper in 1999 before joining Central Press Features to write consumer features for print media and the Fish4 websites. She then moved to The Netherlands to work for the European Journalism Centre, helping to launch a website and several publications in conjunction with the European Commission.
On moving back to the UK in 2003, she became a features writer and then editor for GDS International, writing across the publisher’s broad portfolio of B2B titles. She joined Sift Media in 2007, becoming editor of MyCustomer.com and KnowledgeBoard.com until November 2009.