The 2012 Accenture Global Consumer Survey polled more than 12,000 consumers in 32 countries about their experiences with service providers in 10 industries, including retail, travel and consumer goods. Here’s what they found:
The number of consumers who are willing to switch providers is growing. One in five consumers switched providers in 2012, up five percent from 2011. But most (85 percent) of consumers say the company in question could have done something differently to prevent them from switching.
What would have made the most difference? Two-thirds (67 percent) say having their customer service issue resolved during their first contact could have changed their minds; 54 percent say they might have stayed loyal if the company had recognized and rewarded how much business they did with the company; and 44 percent say they might have been swayed by preferential treatment, such as “Platinum Status.”
What type of customer service letdown makes customers more likely to stop doing business with you? Broken promises are a major pet peeve. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents say this is “extremely frustrating” and 78 percent are likely to switch providers when promises are broken.
Other top frustrations that drive customers away:
- Having to contact customer service multiple times for the same reason (65 percent);
- Dealing with unfriendly customer service agents (65 percent); and
- Being put on hold for a long time when contacting customer service (61 percent).
So what builds a good customer relationship? Accenture says a “tailored experience” is key. Almost half (48 percent) of respondents say that, compared to 12 months ago, they have higher expectations that they’ll receive specialized treatment for being a “good” customer, and half say it is extremely important for customer service people to know their history so they don’t have to keep repeating themselves. Thirty-one percent of respondents say they wish companies would use information about them to make their experience more efficient from one step to the next.
As a small business, you can have an edge over big, faceless corporations in providing tailored experiences. Using customer relationship management (CRM) tools to record and track customer data, so your customer service people and sales reps can access it immediately, is one of the simplest ways to do this. But it’s also important to recognize and respond to your loyal customers face-to-face. Giving a friendly greeting to a frequent shopper, or asking a restaurant regular about their family, can go a long way toward making little service snafus less of an issue when they do occur.
Speaking of tech vs. touch, Accenture points out that “Consumers appear to be migrating to increasingly polarized camps: one group that prefers traditional interactions, such as telephone, and one tech-savvy group that demands seamless interactions across all digital platforms.” Unfortunately, the report notes, too many businesses are approaching customer service from a “one-size-fits-all” stance. In today’s competitive environment, that just won’t fly.
Image by Flickr user sboneham (Creative Commons)