Your Customer Service Stinks

An Accenture survey finds that while consumers' customer service expectations continue to rise, the majority of companies aren't keeping pace, sending customers to competitors. And it's only getting easier for them to leave.

There is a "new normal" when it comes customer loyalty: Namely, that there isn't any. According to a new report by Accenture, companies in all types of industries are experiencing a "steady erosion of customer loyalty due to fair-to-poor customer service."

"We saw higher customer attrition numbers this year than in any previous survey year," Accenture found. In fact, 59 percent of consumers switched due to poor customer service. The report, "Customer Satisfaction in the Multi-Polar World: Accenture 2007 Global Customer Service Satisfaction Survey Report," is the third-annual study which aims to examine consumer attitudes toward organizations' customer service. (The Web-based survey of 3,552 consumers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, the United Kingdom and United States was fielded in July and August 2007.)

Here are some of the key findings:

Expectations for customers are rising—fast. The survey found that 52 percent say they have higher expectations for service quality today than five years ago. What's noteworthy is that 33 percent say they have higher expectations for customer service quality today than just one year ago.

Serve me or I'm outta here! According to the respondents, customer service is the leading reason why they choose a new provider or company. The survey found that 77 percent are much more inclined to "continue doing business with a company that provides a positive service experience."

Why can't you just help me? In all, 47 percent of consumers say companies meet their expectations only sometimes, rarely or never, and 41 percent describe the quality of service they receive as just fair, poor or terrible. That's a total of 88 percent who have suboptimal experiences. On the flipside, just 5 percent describe service as excellent, and only 3 percent say their expectations are always met.

What I want and what you actually offer. During the past year, 59 percent of respondents have switched service providers because of a bad service experience. The problem is that service is not improving: "In countries we have surveyed previously," the report stated, "the percentage of consumers switching due to bad service is increasing."

One of the interesting conclusions (which seems surprising in this day and age of instantaneous online shopping trends) is that companies have a "false sense of security." Meaning, companies refuse to recognize the expanding divide between what customers want and how companies actually meet (or don't meet) their customers' needs.

"Internal satisfaction metrics don't convey the gravity of these declines in satisfaction, as expressed directly by consumers responding to this survey," stated the report. "Companies will need to ensure their reporting and metrics provide a reliable view into this issue and how their responses are affecting it."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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