Despite the increasing adoption of email, online self-service and even social media as customer service tools, a study by Echo Managed Services highlights how businesses that overlook the importance of human contact risk damaging their reputations.
The research reveals that good telephone customer service is such a prized commodity for consumers that 29 per cent would actively move their business elsewhere if they had a bad experience when dealing with a business over the phone.
Unsurprisingly, poor customer service on the phone leaves more than one in 10 feeling angry with the company they are dealing with, while nearly the same proportion of consumers say they would be unlikely to recommend a business to friends if it couldn’t deal with enquiries effectively over the phone.
4 per cent would even go so far as to actively discourage friends and family from signing up with businesses that proved incapable of providing this type of service.
With a recent study suggesting that 85 per cent of customer interactions will be managed without people by the end of the decade, businesses must ensure they continue to cater for peoples’ range of customer service preferences to avoid creating frustration.
The figures come as a similar report into customer service in the banking sector revealed that nearly half of consumers (48 per cent) have considered switching their account to a new provider because of poor customer service.
Chris Cullen, head of sales and marketing at Echo, believes electronic communication has become an integral part of doing business, but there are dangers in relying too heavilyt on these types of resources at the expense of traditional and personal customer service. “This is particularly true when technology is poorly implemented or fails to work correctly. In these situations, customers are left with little options if they are completely relying on the technology,” he says. “These findings should serve as a warning to businesses that for many consumers, dealing with someone on the phone is still their preferred method of accessing information, making bookings, or dealing with complaints – particularly when their enquiry is complicated or requires some form of further explanation.
As more businesses implement artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots and similar tools, Cullen believes that these options should be reserved for simple requests. The human touch remains an invaluable resource for more complicated or escalated enquiries.
“Businesses that fail to provide this level of service risk their customers feeling they are not valued, which can damage trust and confidence in a company very quickly,” he adds.
Among the biggest issues consumers deal with when contacting businesses with poor telephone service are being kept on hold for long periods and dealing with automated call answering machines, while being forced to deal with overseas call centres is also a cause of frustration.
However, nearly a quarter of customers say they are more likely to trust a business who provides good telephone service and are likely to feel a greater sense of loyalty to those businesses.
Top four frustrations with telephone customer service include being kept waiting on hold, automated call answering, overseas call centres, and inarticulate and poor quality staff. The research also reveals what good telephone customer service looks like, providing customers with increased trust and reassurance, sense of loyalty to the company or brand, feeling valued and cared for and even feeling less stressed.