Irish firms excel at customer disservice

3 Oct 2006

Ireland’s fabled “service with a snarl” mentality has entered the cyber age. Even with additional tools like email, SMS and the internet Irish firms perform poorly at responding to customer enquiries.

A survey of 125 Irish organisations found that 44pc of Irish companies fail to respond to customer enquiries, leaving many consumers frustrated with unsatisfactory service.

Organisations straddling the worlds of retail, financial services, travel, tourism, government, health and media were surveyed.

All of the 125 organisations in Ireland that were surveyed were contacted by email and 44pc failed to respond.

The tourism sector was the most responsive with a 59pc follow-up rate, followed by financial services with 56pc. The worst performer was the Irish travel sector, with no response whatsoever.

Not one of the Irish retailers contacted rang within 24 hours of being contacted or sent a personalised email within five days. More than half the retailers failed to respond at all.

Tony Brennan, managing director of consulting firm Viewpoint, said that instead of making firms more efficient at customer service, businesses were hiding behind the guise of email and websites to avoid dealing with customers.

Brennan said: “In recent years, many organisations have made the decision, under the guise of efficiency, to turn away from traditional and time-consuming methods of communication such as telephone and letter writing and have encouraged the public to contact them by email or through website-based forms.

“This survey shows that while many companies make their customers wait too long for relevant answers, many others don’t bother to acknowledge customer complaints at all. If organisations are not going to respond to their customers they shouldn’t ask to be contacted through websites or by email.”

Brennan warned that poor service contains hidden costs for an organisation and results in significant brand erosion. “Companies need to address the underlying causes and effects of poor service and develop clear strategies for delivering excellence in customer satisfaction. Irish businesses can succeed in doing this by empowering front-line employees and letting them make a difference.”

By John Kennedy