Chris Robinson
Chris Robinson 21 December 2017
Categories Customer Experience

Poor contact strategies could leave businesses out in the cold

A dampening economy and fears over Brexit may have dented consumer spend, which saw its fastest year-on-year decline in four years this November. Yet despite this, online spend is still rising with the latest ONS figures showing that sales values increased year-on-year to October by 10.7%, accounting for approximately 16.9% of all retail spending. With consumers perhaps becoming more careful about what they spend and where, providing good customer service is more important than ever.

Yet while businesses need to work harder than ever to keep people loyal, many seem to be dropping the ball, leaving them sorely at risk of losing customers to their better-prepared competitors. Despite the always-connected world we live in, UK businesses are failing to provide customers with ways to keep in touch, and it seems to be a universal problem.

Recent research commissioned by Yonder Digital Group surveyed 2,000 UK consumers on the performance of a wide range of consumer-facing sectors.  It asked whether they felt that companies were easy to get in touch with and efficient at solving queries quickly and effectively, and across all sectors, the response was often negative. In fact, it found that no more than a quarter of people rated any sectors as excellent for their ease of contact, with most voted basic or poor by more than half.

The best sector for contactability was online retail – specifically those companies without any bricks and mortar presence – while right at the bottom were airlines and delivery services.

Despite coming top however, only 25% rated online retailers’ contactability as excellent. Retail banking and hotels scored similarly, with 24% giving banks the highest rating in this area, followed by hotels with 22.5%. In fact hotels received the lowest ‘poor’ score at 9.6%. Supermarkets also did quite well with the second lowest poor score, 13.1%, and an excellent score of 19.2%.

So how did other sectors perform?

  • Airlines and delivery services were only rated as excellent by 10%, with almost a quarter rating them both as poor, and the majority as simply basic.
  • Delivery firms have the worst poor score – from nearly a quarter of people (24.3%).
  • Car brands, airlines and delivery services make up the bottom three
  • 42.3% said DIY stores’ ease of contact was basic; 40.7% said the same for fashion shops.
  • Utility companies, internet providers, and mobile providers see quite high poor scores of 18.7%, 18.6% and 16.9% respectively.
  • Most people say insurance companies’ ease of contact is good or basic, with 16.8% judging it to be excellent.

Taken together, each sector’s excellent and good ratings do add up, but still to no higher than 57.4% for online only retailers and 57.1% for banks, leaving a hefty proportion of people rating each sector’s ease of contact as no better than basic or poor.  Yet with ever growing competition within sectors for customer share, retailers cannot afford to downplay the role of contactability in customer satisfaction, and ultimately spend and loyalty.

UK consumers find delivery firms for example the most difficult type of company to get in contact with when something goes wrong with their order. This affects retailers as well as delivery firms with one survey from earlier this year showing that 39% say they will never shop with an online merchant again following a negative delivery experience[1].

With utilities, last year saw more than five million people switch electricity accounts, up by a million on the previous year, according to Energy UK[2].  While this is generally to save money, better communications could help to prevent switchers with a report by Which?[3] showing that many of the big players in particular score poorly for customer service and complaints handling.

The first step towards better contactability for any business is of course to ensure that customers can find their contact details easily, with a range of options for getting in touch. Communication attempts will flounder however without the right back up in place. Businesses also need to look at the customer journey to identify when and where demand for contact is highest and to answer this demand with live agent interaction by phone or live chat.

Having this support in place and being more responsive and efficient in answering queries is central to improving customer service and therefore satisfaction. Certainly, with figures showing that more than half of consumers stop buying after a poor customer service interaction and that 95% share bad experiences[4], the importance of offering good customer service through contactability and swift efficient query resolution cannot be downplayed.

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