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60% of people still prefer phone for customer service Organisations taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to customer service

The major investments that organisations have made in web and email customer services in the last five years have so far failed to improve customer satisfaction, largely because they are not tailoring their customer service strategies closely enough to consumer needs. This is the conclusion of a new survey of 2,000 consumers in the UK. Although 34% of queries are now made via web and email channels, the telephone remains the most popular communications method (used for 60% of queries) and telephone advisors are the most important factor in maintaining overall customer satisfaction.

These findings were revealed in the first part of a major new survey carried out by research consultancy Teleconomy on behalf of Cable & Wireless and Vertex. The introduction of web and email has served to raise consumer expectations of customer service since Cable & Wireless last commissioned a survey of the industry in 1998. 32% of people now expect ‘excellent’ customer service compared with 24% in 1998. As a result, while customer satisfaction with telephone advisors remains high at 76%, overall consumer satisfaction has declined. 12% of respondents rated their customer service experiences as ‘poor’, versus 7% in 1998.

Problems arising from the ways in which organisations are using technology, such as the difficulty in resolving an issue quickly by email, are behind the rising levels of dissatisfaction.
Teleconomy’s Paul Hudson says, “Many organisations have thrown money at e-based customer contact solutions in the hope that such investment would drive efficiency and cost savings in the future. The truth is that not nearly enough thought has gone into why and how a customer wants to interact with a business, and through which channel.”

The survey found that customers choose different contact methods depending on the context of their enquiry and their frame of mind. If people have a real problem, they don’t appreciate being stuck in a call filtering system. 75% of problem enquirers choose to use the telephone and telephone advisors need to have access to appropriate knowledge and respond in a caring manner. But for other needs, such as checking out information or repeat transactions, automated phone systems can be perfect: 46% of people thought that automated phone systems actively aided their repeat transactions. People are also increasingly choosing the web for repeat transactions and bookings (23% and 26% respectively) and 28% of complaint enquirers choose email.

The survey also confirmed that poor service can have a huge impact on customer loyalty. It found, for example, that 72% of first-time customers who experienced poor customer service would not use the organisation concerned again.

When researchers asked consumers to rate their experiences of interacting with organisations, they found:
• Only 51% of email correspondents cited their experience as positive, with 24% claiming a negative experience;
• 61% of those communicating via the organisation’s website rated their interaction positively, with 18% reporting dissatisfaction. This is despite the fact that most people said they use web and email communication for non-urgent queries;
• By contrast, 72% of consumers rated their encounter via the telephone as ‘good’, with only 10% enduring a ‘poor’ experience.

“Technology is a powerful enabler for customer service if it’s designed and used in a tailored way,” said David Jackson, vice president, customer interaction management, Cable & Wireless. “Organisations used to think that people would become either ‘web customers’ or ‘phone customers’ and stick to one method, but it has turned out to be far more complex.”

Amanda Burn, strategy and marketing director, Vertex, added, “Organisations need to spend more time working out which channel best suits the needs of their customer base before making significant technology investments. A stronger focus on the scenarios that lead organisations’ consumers to contact them will ensure that they put in place the most appropriate mix to cater for these needs.”

Financial services remains the best performing sector with 83% of consumers claiming to be ‘very satisfied’. The utilities sector has achieved the biggest reduction in dissatisfied customers. 10% of customers were ‘very dissatisfied’ compared with 19% in 1998.

The second part of this survey, based on interviews with organisations running contact centres, will focus on the challenges they face in delivering customer service. Results will be announced later this month.

-Ends-

Note to Editors

A summary of the first phase of the ‘It’s Your Call’ research and an accompanying whitepaper are available from paul.hudson@teleconomy.com. The results of the total research project will be available in July.


Cable & Wireless Customer Interaction Management

Cable & Wireless Customer Interaction Management (CIM), a focused business unit, has over 10 years experience supporting flexible customer interaction management solutions. The Cable & Wireless team includes customer interaction management specialists, systems integrators, service engineers and other professionals. They design, supply, install, maintain and evolve CIM solutions, be they network or premise based. The professional services team also works with customers to set baseline performance information and metrics vital to the delivery of quantifiable business benefits.

About Cable & Wireless

Cable & Wireless is one of the world’s leading international communications companies. For 130 years it has constantly reinvented itself to embrace the latest technological advances to serve its customers’ needs.

Cable & Wireless’ principal operations are in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, the United States, Japan, the Caribbean, Panama, the Middle East and Macau.
Cable & Wireless provides voice, data and IP (Internet Protocol) services to business and residential customers, as well as services to other telecoms carriers, mobile operators and providers of content, applications and internet services. For more information about Cable & Wireless, go to www.cw.com.

About Vertex

Vertex is the UK’s leading business process outsourcer with a particular expertise in customer management. Typical services include customer call handling, billing services and financial services. Vertex undertakes services for utility, telecommunications, retail and public sector organisations. Vertex operates across 23 locations nationally and employs over 8,000 people, largely within customer contact centres and information services.

Every year, Vertex handles over 34 million customer accounts, handles over 204 million UK contacts, prints and sends over 65 million bills and documents, processes over 95 million transactions and collects in excess of £6 billion in payments for a wide range of clients in the public and private sectors.

Vertex clients include, United Utilities, TXU, Hydro One (Canada), Bet Direct, Cable & Wireless, BRS/Volvo, CGE&Y, UGC Cinemas, Westminster City Council, Companies House, Birmingham City Council, the London Borough of Ealing and Marks & Spencer.
Vertex is a United Utilities plc subsidiary company.

About Teleconomy

Teleconomy is a research consultancy and knowledge centre specialising in understanding how customer relationships are built. It has more than 20 years experience in working with over 100 organisations and contact centres across all sectors nationally and internationally.

Teleconomy comprises a full service research capability and a focused and creative research based consultancy. Its research services range from ethnography through to quantitative data collection - either online or using Teleconomy’s own CATI call centre. Teleconomy has strong academic links to universities in the UK and overseas, and particularly strong relationships with Henley Management College and Lancaster University.

For more information, please contact:

Ghezala Beg
Brodeur Worldwide (for Cable & Wireless)
Tel: +44(0)20 7298 7063
Email: gbeg@uk.brodeur.com

Deborah Sadler
Vertex
Tel: +44(0)161 493 2200
Email: deborah.sadler@vertex.co.uk

Paul Hudson
Teleconomy
Email: paul.hudson@teleconomy.com

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