Two out of three or 66% of consumers switched companies - including mobile phone service providers - as result of poor customer service in 2011, even as their satisfaction with the services provided by those companies rose, the Accenture Global Consumer Survey has revealed.
The research findings pose new challenges for marketers as they focus on building customer loyalty and improving market share in a very competitive business environment.
The survey asked consumers in 27 countries including SA to evaluate 10 industries on issues ranging from service expectations and purchasing intentions to loyalty, satisfaction and switching.
Among the 10,000 consumers who responded, the proportion of those who switched companies for any reason between 2010 and 2011 rose in eight of the 10 industries included in the survey.
The survey also found that less than a quarter of consumers surveyed felt "very loyal" to his or her providers, while 24% indicated that they had no loyalty at all.
And, only half indicated that they were strongly influenced by at least one loyalty programme offered by their service providers.
At the same time, however, consumer satisfaction with their providers' customer service actually increased in 2011 in 10 attributes measured by the survey.
These attributes included the wait time for service, the ability to resolve issues without speaking with an agent and speaking with just one customer service agent to resolve an issue.
According to Nikki Tyrer, Accenture SA's executive director and customer relationship management practice lead, companies were improving many of the most frustrating parts of the customer service experience, but they were facing customers who were increasingly willing to engage multiple providers for a service and were apt to switch quickly.
"While high-quality sales and service in areas such as product knowledge and efficient issue resolution remain a basic requirement, in order to achieve sustainable, profitable growth, companies must better understand what really keeps their customers engaged by examining a number of overlooked, but critical points of interaction in the customer relationship," she said.
Check your 'blind spot'
Interestingly, the Accenture study identified a number of blind spots in the "customer relationship" that many companies appeared to be overlooking.
Some of these were that organisations were failing to offer consumers opportunities to engage with them, including through digital channels, companies were also overlooking signs that customers were itching to switch, and they were failing to keep promises they made on the service experience.
Addressing these issues may enable organisations to improve customer retention and stem the tide of switching, Accenture said.
"As companies tackle these blind spots, building a solid foundation in data, analytics and research will help clarify the voice of the consumer, making the task of identifying and responding to rapid changes in consumer behavior easier," Tyrer commented.
"Better harnessing customer analytics will help identify key moments of change, competitive threats and service opportunities and position the organisation to more effectively deliver on its brand promise," she added.
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