Britons Would Rather Fill Out Their Annual Tax Return Than Speak to Customer Service

Research suggests that service providers are not doing enough to listen to and understand the needs of their customers.

Tax time

Nearly one in three (29 per cent) Britons say that they would rather fill out their annual tax return, scrub their toilet, or sit in a traffic jam on a hot, sunny day than have to deal with their service provider’s customer service team, according to research conducted by Redshift research. The study was conducted on behalf of strategic business applications provider Pegasystems Inc and raises significant questions about whether British service-oriented industries are doing enough to understand their customers and their needs.

The research examined attitudes towards customer service and experience in two of the UK’s leading service-providing industries – retail banking and broadband – and surveyed more than 1,000 UK customers and 100 business decision makers at banks and broadband providers based in this country. It found that existing levels of customer service amongst service-focused organisations are not adequate to meet the needs of consumers, with one in ten (10 per cent) banking customers and one in six (16 per cent) broadband customers admitting that they would rather clean their own toilet than have to speak to their provider’s customer service team.

One reason for this discontent may be a failure on the part of service providers to understand their customers and their needs. Almost half (46 per cent) of all consumer respondents identified having a customer service team that listens to them and understands their needs as one of their top three considerations when dealing with a service provider. However, despite this, more than one in three (34 per cent) banking customers stated either that they expect their bank to know them better as an individual or that their bank does not understand them at all. This number rises to over half (52 per cent) of all broadband customers who responded to the same question.

Nearly a quarter of all consumers interviewed (23 per cent) said that being offered irrelevant product or service recommendations was their leading service provider annoyance, suggesting that a high number of service providers have an incomplete view of their customers and their needs. This is further emphasised by the fact that nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of service providers stated that they felt they know their customers and their individual needs ‘extremely well’.

The survey chimes with the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, published bi-annually by the Institute of Customer Service, which reveals that just 22 per cent of customers believe customer service teams ‘listen carefully’ or ‘want to fully understand’ their needs. The Institute’s survey, which is based on 10,000 customers’ views, also found that just 13 per cent felt customer service teams took responsibility for helping them.

Tellingly, the Redshift study found that only 22 per cent of banks and 28 per cent of broadband providers said that they felt that they excelled in listening to and understanding their customers’ needs, with respondents from both industries placing their failure to do so amongst the top three problems they had in terms of the customer service they currently offer. This could prove significant when considering 75 per cent of banking customers and 69 per cent of broadband customers cited inadequate customer service as either an important or top reason for switching to another supplier.

Commenting on the findings, Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, said: “The service sector is responsible for generating 78 per cent of GDP in the UK and with over 70 per cent of the working population performing roles that involve dealing directly with customers, it’s clear that the economic consequences of any prolonged disconnect between customers and service providers could be dire. Service providers across all industries need to understand that providing a positive customer experience is not an optional extra and is something that should be fully embraced if this apparent culture of complacency is to be eliminated.”

Robin Collyer, Marketing and Decisioning Specialist at Pegasystems, said: “British consumers have stated loud and clear that they need service providers to understand them, and start treating them as individuals and not just a number. To achieve this aim it’s important for organisations to bear in mind that it should be the responsibility of everyone within the organisation to ensure a positive customer experience. It’s not about the customer always being right (they aren’t) – it’s about the ability of the business to balance its objectives for growth, service, retention and risk with the customers’ need for better, more timely, and more effective engagement across whichever channel they happen to be using.

“It’s not that the companies don’t have this information available for them to use – it seems as though many are just unable to use it effectively. It’s also telling that only 12 per cent of service providers interviewed said that omni-channel was a key focus for their customer service efforts. That’s not good enough. You can’t “know” the customer if your interactions are lost across multiple channels. Service providers would be wise to adhere to this useful mantra of a positive customer experience: ‘Know me and give me your brand experience – wherever I am.'”

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