British consumers frustrated with automated service
Many businesses need to seriously rethink the way in which they are using customer service technologies, according to research from Experian, which found that 80% of British consumers are sick of being sidetracked and delayed by call centre telephone systems.
In the survey, many consumers placed the blame on "impersonal" and "inflexible" technologies that are apparently used to get them off the telephone as quickly as possible without necessarily providing improved customer service.
Low expectations The most worrying finding is that only 7% of the consumers questioned actually thought that technology companies had invested heavily in call centre automation technologies, or that these systems come close to delivering the level of customer service that is expected.
According to Experian, a common error among businesses operating call centres and automated customer service systems is that the more spent on technology, the happier customers will be. But Duncan Painter, managing director for Experian Integrated Marketing, explained: "Businesses have lost sight of their most important asset: the customer. They seem to think that investing millions in web and call centre technology means that they can sit back and it will instantly mean happy customers. Customers want to be wooed, not treated like cattle, when they deal with a company."
Battle for the budget The problem, the company argues, is that management consultants, customer relationship management experts, marketers, and IT departments are all fighting for a larger share of the organisation's budget, and the result is that directly improving the customer's service experience is not considered a strategic goal.
The survey's other findings include:
- Customers have the most difficulties when dealing with a company over the telephone, with just over one-third (38%) ever managing to successfully resolve issues the first time they call (compared to 62% of web-based enquiries successfully dealt with upon first contact).
- Despite problems with call centres, 89% of consumers still always end up reaching for the telephone.
- The older the customer, the more likely they are to encounter customer service complications, whether by telephone or through the web.
- A major source of irritation for 59% of consumers is companies not knowing who they are when they get in touch, despite being regular customers.
According to Painter, a major issue is that companies often do not understand how to make their service technologies become a smooth part of the overall customer experience: "It all boils down to using technology to effectively facilitate good old-fashioned communication. This means businesses need to share information across the business, get rid of data silos, cultivate a better understanding of how customer data must flow internally, and the value this will eventually have for the customer."