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Telephone the most frustrating customer service channel - report

15th Sep 2011
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Almost half of consumers say telephone is the most frustrating customer service channel - but only one in eight customers say they would pay for superior customer service.

New research into multi-channel customer service from Econsultancy  has revealed the changing face of consumer's expectations when contacting brands.
Even though one in three consumers cite the telephone as their preferred channel for customer service, 48% also find it the most frustrating.
In the survey of 2,000 UK consumers, the telephone was voted three times more frustrating than email and eight times more frustrating than live chat. In a clear sign of the demand for excellent customer experience, one in eight consumers even said they would be happy to pay a fee in return for a superior level of service.
The Econsultancy research sought to unearth consumer views on multichannel customer service. The findings provide a clear picture of how brands are struggling to coordinate channels and eliminate customer frustration.
 Despite the phone being the most established channel for customer service, 61% failed to identify it as the most effective channel when trying to contact a UK brand. When asked about the reasons for phone frustration, respondents cited queues, automated responses and premium rate numbers.
Warren Buckley, managing director of customer services at BT and a speaker at econsultancy’s JUMP event, said customer service was an area where businesses, in a competitive marketplace, can really stand out and differentiate themselves. “This research shows that while many are still lagging behind, there is a growing number of savvy companies that, instead of viewing customer service as a cost centre, see it as a way for them to excel and increase brand loyalty.”
Email was identified as the preferred channel for customer service by 44% of survey respondents and was also voted the second most effective. However, it was awarded second place, after the phone, for the most frustrating channel, highlighting that there is still room for improvement.
Respondents were also asked to identify which industries provided the best level of service with retailers coming out on top (47%). Other industries fared less well: banks (16%), travel (15%), automotive (10%), utilities (8%) and telecoms (4%) are all lagging well behind retailers. Amazon, Tesco, Virgin and BT were among the companies cited as providing outstanding levels of customer service.
Warren is speaking at JUMP on 12 October in London, an annual event hosted by Econsultancy focusing on online and offline marketing. Other speakers will include the BBC’s VP Marketing Planning & CRM, Net-a-Porter’s head of marketing, and Kiddicare’s technology director.

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