NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Amid tightening household budgets, Americans are taking a closer look at the service providers (like phone, cable or utility companies) that get their money every month, and even though customer satisfaction toward service providers is on the rise, two of three consumers switched their main service providers in the past year.
So why the urge to flee? It might have something to do with fidgety consumers, lousy customer service, and that age-old "grass is always greener" maxim. Global management consulting giant Accenture looked into the question in a study showing the apparent fickleness of U.S. consumers these days.
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The main takeaway? “Poor customer service” accounted for 66% of “service” customers’ decisions to switch companies in 2011.
Accenture logically points out that poor customer service isn’t the same thing as a good provider service, like when the cable service works well but the consumer has trouble getting a customer service representative on the phone to answer a basic question.
The Accenture data has to be troubling to major household service providers, who continue to wrestle with customer loyalty in an age where the Internet, social networking and mobile communications allow service providers to “poach” each other’s customers with quick discounts and other benefits for switching providers.
“Companies are improving many of the most frustrating parts of the customer service experience, but they are facing a customer who is increasingly willing to engage multiple providers for a service and is apt to switch quickly,” notes Robert Wollan, global managing director of Accenture Customer Relationship Management, in an official statement. “Companies must better understand what really keeps their customers engaged by examining a number of overlooked, but critical points of interaction in the customer relationship.”
So what are some of those critical but overlooked points?
Accenture calls them service provider “blind spots” that prevent companies from seeing what consumers actually want. Here are some examples:
Organizations fail to offer consumers opportunities to engage with them. Accenture says consumers want to communicate with their phone or utility companies on “multiple channels” – especially via social media. Failing to do so could push consumers to a competitor who thrives on Facebook or Twitter.
The “itch to switch.” Accenture reports that wireless phone companies are especially vulnerable to consumers leaving the nest, or even adding another provider (Accenture calls that “partial switching”) to fill in service gaps themselves. The study adds that partial switching is up in all 10 service provider categories it tracks.
Failure to keep promises. Accenture finds that service companies are increasingly making promises they’re not keeping. “The study found that consumers rate ‘having the service experience match the promise a company makes to me upfront’ as one of the most important areas of customer service,” the Accenture report states. “Yet the greatest service frustration cited is a provider’s failure to deliver on the service experience promised up front.”
It all adds up to a household consumer who won’t think twice about dropping his or her phone company or satellite TV provider at the first inkling of trouble. That probably says as much about the provider’s customer service failures as it does the consumer’s increasingly short patience with providers.
Either way, service companies better figure the problem out quickly, because the chances of another customer leaving the fold in the next 10 minutes seems pretty high, if Accenture’s study is on the money.
No matter how you slice it, customer service counts. Check out MainStreet’s look at the 10 Best Retailers for Customer Service for tips on where to shop!