British consumers could be regularly experiencing a poor level of customer service, according to new research by uSwitch – with figures showing:

  • 83% regularly waste time queuing or being kept on hold.
  • 65% regularly experience poor customer service.
  • 59% say that they often encounter poor staff attitude.

But despite this, their research also showed that almost three quarters of consumers are prepared to let companies get away with it, without raising a complaint.

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, said: “What this tells us is that the number of complaints received by companies is actually just the tip of an iceberg. Consumers regularly receive shoddy service, but often feel unable or unwilling to complain. This is bad for consumers and bad for the companies too as, without this vital feedback, they lose the chance to listen and improve and could easily end up seeing their customers disappearing out of their door and into the arms of a rival.”

Their results also showed that only a quarter (27%) will complain without fail when they have a problem. Whilst this is a relatively small percentage, one of the key concerns is over which channel they will complain? And with whom will they share their poor experiences?

Consumers are increasingly turning to social media channels to air their grievances, a trend that is only going to increase as a tech and social savvy Generation Z start to come into disposable income, a generation who have grown up communicating on social channels.

And what about those customers that didn’t complain? Will they merely take it on the chin and continue their relationship with that company…most probably not. With your competition licking at your heels and plenty of comparison sites to guide you into the arms of another, the impact can be devastating.

Recent Forrester data also showed that:

  • 66% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service.
  • 45% of US online adults will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.
  • 75% of consumers move to another channel when online customer service fails.

Customers don’t want to call your contact centre and wait on hold for a reply, having to navigate an endless menu of IVR options. Our own recent survey results showed that 90% of consumers will always check a website first before e-mailing or calling an organisation.

Forrester estimates that unnecessary service costs due to channel escalation are $22 million on average. Having a multi-channel customer service strategy in place and providing your customers with the tools to find answers to their questions online quickly and easily, can dramatically reduce your service costs by significantly deflecting the volume on in-bound calls and e-mails to your contact centre.

Too many organisations have a ‘reactive’ rather than ‘proactive’ approach to customer service, having a damaging effect of the overall customer experience and resulting in lost customers. Frustrated customers who have been unable to resolve their issues online are all too often forced to contact call centre agents and vent their frustrations – a poor outcome for both the customer and agent.

Top tips to improve customer service and experience:

  • Allow customers to self-serve online: The web is the consumers first contact channel of choice, so make sure you allow them to find information on your products and services quickly and easily by offering web self-service and having a regularly up-dated and centralized knowledge-base. This will significantly reduce the need for customers to escalate to phone or e-mail contact.
  • Connect customers to the right call centre agent: Offering a live chat facility will allow those consumers that have a more detailed query to be seamlessly escalated to live contact centre agents, without having to change channels. By asking the customer to identify the nature of their enquiry before they are connected means that they can be intelligently routed to the best agent for them, based on criteria such as area of expertise and product knowledge. Understanding your customers needs and matching them with the right person to talk to, saves not just the customer’s time, but the company’s, as well – improving resolution rates.
  • Keep a record of customer history: If your customer contacts you via live chat, e-mail or social channels – keep a record of their history. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to keep repeating yourself when you escalate to a different channel– a sure fire way to lose a customer.
  • Be proactive and up-sell: If you are providing a good level of service, it makes sense to make customers aware of other offers, up-grades or services you offer – as long as it is relevant to the nature of their enquiry.
  • Above all listen: Customer complaints should always be used as an opportunity to learn and improve your service and if handled well can turn a disgruntled customer into an advocate of your business. Offer feedback mechanisms across all self-service channels and regularly review your analytics in order to constantly up-date your knowledge-base.

Find out more about how Synthetix are helping leading companies improve their multi-channel customer service.