Businesses across Europe endangering customer relationships
with ineffective service
Clear need for European firms to use information more intelligently
in order to satisfy the public’s expectations
4 March, 2008, Reading, UK: Research commissioned by Oracle, which surveyed 1,500 consumers and 250 contact centre managers across Europe, reveals a huge gap between consumers’ expectations of customer service and the way businesses are equipped to meet them. The findings reveal that ineffective information systems play a central role in the poor levels of customer service received by the European public.
Key findings include:
- Despite almost unanimous acknowledgement of the importance of keeping customers happy, more than half of European consumers do not judge customer service operations to be effective
- Customers’ principal complaints include enduring long call queues, having to continually repeat their queries to different members of staff, and receiving inconsistent answers
- More than half of businesses have no plans to introduce a self-service portal despite a clear preference among customers for using the internet to resolve queries
- Contact centre managers view better quality of information and staff training as the two prime requirements for improving customer service
- Consumers believe that financial services companies offer the best customer service, and telecommunications companies the worst
Loic le Guisquet, senior vice president, Oracle CRM, EMEA, commented on the findings: “The research show us that the majority of European customer service operations are failing to keep pace with the demands of today’s consumers. Businesses need to go beyond the simple retention of customer information, and start to apply intelligence to the vast amounts of data they hold in order to meet the public’s expectations. Turning information on customer behaviour and their life events into actionable intelligence enables the business to sense and respond to their needs. Systems need to be flexible and draw information from across the business to empower staff in their dealings with customers and their decision making.”
The research questioned 1,500 consumers and 250 contact centre managers in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark.
More details on the findings follow in four sections:
- Contact centres failing to meet customer expectations
- Staff let down by inadequate tools, training and processes
- Failure to exploit customer desire for self-service
- Financial services come out on top with telcos bottom
Contact centres failing to meet customer expectations
The research revealed that the key objectives for European customer service operations are very much focused on keeping the customer happy. Contact centre manages rated the importance to their organisation of a number of operational objectives:
- more than eight out of ten (83%) viewed dealing with customers to their satisfaction as highly important
- two thirds (66%) viewed keeping customers for as little time as possible in call queues as highly important
- objectives governing operational efficiency (such as the number of calls dealt with or minimising staff numbers) were low on the list of priorities
However, although the contact centres may have the right focus in serving their customers, the research revealed that they come up very short in delivery.
More than half of European respondents did not judge customer service to be effective – a quarter viewed them as ineffective with a further 29% judging them to be neither effective nor ineffective.
Customers’ principal complaints are:
- Enduring long call queues (77%)
- Having to explain their query anew each time they speak to another representative (75%)
- Being passed between too many departments (55%)
- Customer service agents not understanding their employer’s business (43%)
- Receiving inconsistent answers each time (43%)
Of particular concern was that forty-three percent of contact centre respondents maintained that customers never have to repeat queries, which serves to highlight the size of the gap between their aspirations and their actual delivery on customer expectations.
Loic le Guisquet said: “The technology exists to remedy each and every one of these failings. Along with the right business processes and systems, it’s a matter of gathering intelligent insight from across the business and placing it in the hands of customer service staff as and when they need it. Providing employees with accurate, relevant and timely information boosts their understanding, decision making and the quality of their responses. And effective call-routing systems can help to reduce queues and get customers quickly through to the right departments.”
Staff let down by inadequate tools, training and processes
When customers were asked what they considered to be the most likely cause of dissatisfactory service, the most popular answer was ineffective customer service staff, identified by 43% of respondents.
Yet responses from the contact centre managers revealed that staff are being let down by inadequate tools, training and processes. When asked what would most improve levels of service, respondents identified the following measures:
- almost six out of ten (58%) said providing better quality of information to customer service staff
- half (52%) said more staff training
- 45% selected improved customer service procedures.
- 45% said improved customer service procedures
- 44% said effective call routing
- 38% said empowering staff with more responsibility to make decisions
- 35% said advising callers ― while they are waiting ― of alternative ways of resolving their queries (for example, email, internet, etc)
Loic le Guisquet said: “The findings illustrate the direction businesses should be taking with their customer management strategies. Things have moved on from simply modernising the back office to a stage now where the entire organisation, and the systems supporting it, needs to be connected in their focus on the customer. Yet again, we see a demand for getting the right information into the hands of the right people. And with modern systems, it is extremely simple to advise callers on steps they can take to address their queries. Effective service procedures, regular training sessions and quality customer information should run throughout the company.”
Failure to exploit customer desire for self-service
The survey revealed that businesses are also failing to capitalise on the internet as an efficient and cost-effective means of serving customers.
European consumers viewed the internet as by far the most popular means of dealing with a business. Just under half of respondents (47%) identified it as their preferred option and 71% placed it in their top two. Email was the second most popular channel with general favourability of 60%.
In comparison, 48% disliked call centres and 49% disliked visiting a local branch.
Despite a clear appetite among consumers for using the internet to resolve queries, more than half of contact centre operations said they had no plans to implement a self-service customer portal.
Loic le Guisquet commented: “Businesses are not only missing a trick here, they could find themselves left behind by their competitors. At their most basic, self-service web portals are an extremely effective means of keeping customers happy and at the same time improving the business’s efficiency. However, firms at the forefront are way beyond this now – for instance, providing tools for customers to explore different scenarios and find the best tariff or minimise their carbon footprint. The wave of innovation that’s currently sweeping the web will raise customers’ expectations even higher.”
Financial services come out on top with telcos bottom
When asked which industries were getting customer service right and which were getting it wrong, four out of ten (37%) thought financial services companies provided the best level of service, with a similar number (39%) viewing telecommunications companies providing the worst.
Loic le Guisquet said: “With a wealth of options available to them at the click of a mouse, people are unforgiving if companies fail to deliver on their expectations of good service. What’s more, their expectations are the same across industries. Positive experiences in one sector – be that with airlines or retailers – become the benchmark by which they judge others. The success of price comparison websites is an indication that customers are voting with their feet if they’re not happy.”
-- Notes to editors --
In this particular sample, only 5% of contact centre managers surveyed worked at organisations running Oracle CRM technology. According to IDC, Oracle is the number one CRM vendor in western Europe with a market share of 15% -