Britons are not really known for complaining, you might even say, British people and stiff upper lips go together like fish and chips: when it comes to complaining, we simply don’t make a fuss. No really, when did you last complain about your haircut, sent that steak back or reported the noisy neighbours?
Until now …
The world of online shopping goods and services, the anonymity that the internet allows, and social media in particular, is setting a new trend: where stiff upper lips have complaining fits! Recent research by the Ombudsman’s Services - a non-profit organisation that provides dispute resolution for the communications, energy, property and licensing industries – suggest that Britons are complaining more than ever. More the 66 million customers complained in 2014 - almost double the number of complaints from the previous year. With 20 million (a third of the total) seeking to air their frustration about unresolved queries through social media. Most of the customer service issues where by shoppers, voicing their displeasure about poor goods and services. With retail the most complained about industry sector, 18.5 million customers logged gripes within the last 12 months.
Salt, vinegar and a slice of lemon?
The smell of bad customer experiences lingers with the Telecoms industry - including mobile, broadband and television services – accounting for 7.7 million of the complaints and energy companies serving 7.3 million customers an extra helping of poor customer service. The top 10 industry sectors serving a menu of unpalatable customer service were, banking and finance, public transport, leisure and tourism, tradesmen, property, postal and professional services.
One might expect price to be the top priority for customers during times of economic hardship, at the expense of a good service experience, but results from the UKCSI (UK Customer Satisfaction Index) show that this is not the case. Customer service is still ranked highly by customers regardless of how ‘cheap’ the deal is. In fact the majority of customers, 60%, preferred an even balance of value and service, with 25% willing to pay a premium for excellent service. More shocking figures, from the annual Consumer Action Monitor report, show that the number of customers willing to take action by registering a formal complaint has increased by almost a third since a year ago. But, most complainants were not predominantly motivated by money. The majority of disgruntled customers were more interested in receiving an apology as opposed to financial compensation. And businesses are getting themselves into hot oil, as more than 36% of complainants cynically believe big businesses to only be interested in making profit, with no real thought to after sales service or customer care. This sentiment highlights the importance of trust between businesses and customers, it’s not just ‘customer service’ per se that’s important to the customer, it’s the speed, efficiency, consistency and availability over multiple channels. If not done properly and with a clear strategy, businesses could lose customers for good, leaving them in a financial pickle.
Mushy peas? Yes please …
Commenting on findings form this report, Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith said: “It’s clear to see that customers are less willing than ever to stand for poor service and poor quality. “While it is encouraging to know that consumers are becoming more aware of their rights and more likely to take action, we’re also seeing millions of problems that aren’t taken up with suppliers. “The research highlights a real need for more to be done to tackle poor customer service in the UK”. With this research reporting on daunting volumes of inbound queries, it’s shocking that many businesses still haven’t invested in a robust multi-channel customer service strategy. In order for organisations to improve their customer experience and satisfaction levels, investment in the right customer service technology for the contact centre and other customer contact channels is a priority.
Shall I wrap that up for you?
These figures might have some stomachs turning, but the strong link between high satisfaction ratings, increased trust and loyalty towards an organisation – with an improved customer experience has been proven to have a direct effect on increasing sales and customer recommendations. We offer an array of guides and white papers available to help guide organisations looking to enhance their multi-channel online customer service, however we have highlighted some areas for organisations to consider:
What channels are your customers using?
Are they able to receive customer service from you over all of these channels? (Web, mobile, e-mail, social, in-store, contact centre)
When do customers contact you? Are there any peaks? Can they contact you out of office hours?
Are you offering self-service options?
Are your customer service channels ‘joined-up’ or segmented by department?
Do you have plans to centralise knowledge and deploy across all channels / departments?
Do contact centre agents have a knowledge-base of information to improve accuracy, speed of response, consistency?
How quickly are you able to respond to customer enquiries?
Does this speed vary across different channels?
How do you cope with sudden spikes in customer contact?
Do you have mechanisms in place to quickly route customers to the correct member of staff based on area of enquiry?
Are you listening?
Do you monitor customer complaints / recommendations to improve service?
Do you respond to staff feedback on suggested improvements / customers’ responses?