The greatest force in business that a consumer has is the ability to vote with their feet, or leave a for a competitor. Perhaps most disturbing of all for companies is the recent revelation from Accenture Research that says that most of those customers who left could have been persuaded to stay.
The results from Accenture's eighth annual Global Consumer Survey, covering over 12,000 consumers total from 32 different countries, had difficult news all around for companies. One in five consumers switched their banners when it comes to telecommunications, whether it is wireless phone service, Internet service, or the retailers from which they buy the same. That's up five percent over 2011, but the real kicker is that in the majority--85 percent--of cases, the companies in question could have kept their lost customers' business had they taken some steps to prevent those losses.
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Perhaps most interesting of all was what those steps might have been. 67 percent of respondents would have stayed had they had a customer service issue resolved during their initial contact with the company regarding an issue. 54 percent would have stayed if there had been greater reward involved with being a more frequent or more involved customer with the company.
Further causes of frustration on the part of customers--sufficient frustration to cause plans to leave--included a hefty 63 percent who called companies out for delivering a different customer service experience than promised. 65 percent of customers found calling customer service lines about the same issue more than once a major problem, and the same number called unfriendly customer service agents a big problem as well. 61 percent had a problem with hold times for access to customer service lines, and fully 78 percent of customers were ready to leave if they encountered a point where they got a different level of customer service than they were originally promised.
While there was plenty about what customers didn't want, there was also plenty about what they did. 48 percent want some kind of special treatment by virtue of being a "good" customer. 50 percent want more customer service representatives to have immediate access to their accounts and information so that they can deliver a more personalized experience, and so customers don't have to repeat themselves on every call. But only 24 percent found that the company they were dealing with would actually provide that personal experience.
The key take-away in all this, clearly, is that customers are starting to realize their power in the relationship between business and consumer. Customers willing to become ex-customers are on the rise, and businesses are always in the hunt for new customers, especially when business is less than solid. Customers willing to vote with their feet are on the rise, and businesses would do well to note just what it is that's prompting their departure to take steps against it.
While not every business can afford free goodies for long-term customers, making a more personalized experience is comparatively simple these days with the use of cloud-based telephony tools, especially screen pops, which provide information about each caller to customer service reps directly. Those without such technology can simply use account-access methods to fill in the gap, and giving reps more information will likely result in more satisfied customers. More satisfied customers, meanwhile, are more likely to stay customers.
Edited by Brooke Neuman