Value, customer service, product quality and trust are among the core drivers of US consumers’ satisfaction with companies, per results from Accenture Strategy’s latest annual Global Consumer Pulse Survey. These are also attributes that consumers around the world feel are important for brands to embody, per recent research, and appear to be more important than product selection and personalized experiences.
The appearance of high-quality customer service near the top of the list of satisfaction drivers is not surprising given other research into poor service’s impact on switching behavior. In this latest Accenture research, 52% of US respondents reported having switched providers in at least one of the 12 industries measured due to poor service, with that figure consistent with prior years. Customers were once again most likely to have switched retailers (27%), followed by cable/satellite TV service providers (13%) and banks (10%).
Notably, 8 in 10 respondents said that their previous service provider could have done something to have kept them as a customer. Resolving an issue on first contact, providing better live or in-person customer service, and offering the same promotional pricing as new customers receive were the actions that respondents felt would have that the most impact on their switching decision.
Interestingly, while poor customer service was the main reason for switching providers, price was as important to respondents as customer service in choosing their new service provider. And once gone, customers appear difficult to lure back: just 32% said that they would consider switching back or doing business with their previous provider again in the future. The only circumstances that would cause a majority to reconsider would be some sort of pricing or other type of deal (63%) or the launch of a superior product offering (51%).
Even so, among the 37% of respondents who said that in the past 3 years a service provider had taken steps to prevent them from switching, more than 6 in 10 stayed with the provider as a result of those actions.
In analyzing attitudes to customer service, the report notes that:
- Consumers generally have higher expectations from human interaction (in-store, contact center, etc.) than online or digital sources when looking for advice or information and when looking to resolve a service issue;
- Dealing with human beings over online channels is preferred by a majority of respondents for all service-related activities, ranging from resolving a complaint about a product or service (84%) to being able to get quick answers to questions (61%) and getting an unbiased view (55%);
- Consumers are twice as likely to agree (44%) as disagree (23%) that complaining about companies through social media is more about venting than about actually expecting a company to do something about it.
Overall, 1 in 5 respondents reported having posted negative comments online in the past year following a bad customer service or support experience. More than one-third had quit doing business with the company immediately (39%) or shifted a portion of their spending from a current service provider to another (37%).
So how to avoid customer service complaints? The report notes that the following problems are considered “extremely frustrating” by the largest share of respondents:
- Having to contact the company multiple times for the same reason (69%);
- Having to repeat the same information to multiple employees of the company or through multiple channels (62%);
- Dealing with employees who are unfriendly or impolite (62%);
- Dealign with employees or self-help sites/systems that cannot answer their questions (60%); and
- Being on hold for a long time when contacting the company (60%).
About the Data: Accenture surveyed online almost 25,000 end consumers in 33 countries between August 18 and September 30, 2015. Respondents were asked to evaluate 11 industry sectors (up to 4 industries per respondent). The sample size in the US was 2,003.