Poor customer service upsetting consumers

27 May 2005

Plummeting standards of customer service in the public and private sector is endangering the prospect of repeat business, a survey commissioned by Damovo and Ericsson and conducted by Vanson Bourne reveals.

Nine out of 10 consumers are likely to walk away from companies providing poor customer service, according to the results of the survey.

Of the 150 people surveyed, 94pc of respondents said poor customer service left them with a negative impression of an organisation and 96pc claimed this influenced their decision to deal with that company in the future. Those surveyed ranged in age from 18 to over 65. The research looked at how customer service facilities are perceived in Ireland and also what customer service options consumers are prepared to use, providing key learnings for companies.

Efficiency and confidentiality were highlighted as important factors with 51pc of respondents rating efficiency as most important and more than two thirds of respondents rating confidentiality as second most important. These responses are unsurprising given the functions that customers wish to carry out via customer service facilities. Some 75pc of customers want to access account information, with the option of paying bills and receiving up to date information following second and third, with 53pc and 52pc respectively.

The survey also looked at the disparities between commercial and public sector customer service facilities. In general commercial offerings are contacted more frequently than public service customer service centres. On average respondents contact a commercial customer service facility 22 times a year opposed to public sector ones that are contacted on average seven times a year.

A possible explanation for this is that the public sector lags well behind in the public perception of the quality of its customer service. The public sector was rated as poorer on a number of factors including amount of waiting time, knowledge of customers’ accounts, speed of response after call, fast access to relevant customer service representative and overall quality of service.

“We are surprised at the high level of consumer dissatisfaction,” said John McCabe, managing director of Damovo Ireland. “It is clear from the findings that companies are not taking the effects of poor customer services seriously and need to acknowledge and address standards to retain and grow their customer bases. Organisations can greatly improve the service they offer simply by upgrading their contact centre technology and replacing out of date systems. Securing repeat business will become increasingly more difficult if customer service offerings continue to dissatisfy.”

To improve customer service, Irish companies can deploy speech recognition and interactive voice-recognition (IVR) technologies that allow callers to access information simply through speech, enabling self-service enhancements within the contact centre environment. Such technologies not only satisfy consumers but also have the added benefit of being cost-effective.

Iarnrod Eireann is one company who has already implemented this technology from Damovo and developed a new Talking Timetable system. It has been tailored specifically to fulfill the needs of the organisation and its customers and is helping to improve the company’s standard of customer service, giving the public what it wants, when it needs it.

The survey showed 75pc of respondents are happy to access account information through this mechanism with 60pc willing to pay bills in this way. Accessing account information is the number one reason to contact a customer service facility in Ireland — cited by 75pc of people.

By John Kennedy