Monday, May 10, 2010

Latest wave of communications and high-tech corporate investments in customer service falls short during downturn

NEW YORK, USA: New Accenture research has found that communications and high-tech companies—many of which are falling short in their customer service delivery--need to direct their investments at new levers that enhance the customer experience. These levers include social customer relationship management tools.

The research, entitled “Lessons from the Recession: Where Customer Service and Support Investments Yield Superior Returns for Communications and High-Tech Companies,” revealed that while more than half (60 percent) of the companies surveyed believe their recent actions to extend their offers and reduce costs had positively impacted the customer service experience they delivered, most of their business and residential customers receiving the service reported no visible or tangible improvements.

The research also found that those customers who believe their service experience declined are more likely to stop or reduce the amount of business they do with their current vendors.

“Companies are investing in customer service, but at the same time customer expectations are rising--in many cases faster than the investments,” said Joe Hughes, senior executive with Accenture’s Customer Service and Support business.

“Some of the investment has been to reduce costs, which favorably impacted the way clients perceive customer service, but the path to more profitable, longer lasting customer relationships centers on improving the customer experience. Such improvements are not unique during tough economic periods, but they are even more critical to resolve amid a tough economic climate.”

During such times, the research found, garnering customer loyalty is vital--but elusive. Ninety-two percent of enterprise customers and 81 percent of residential consumers who think the service and support they’ve received has improved said they are more likely to keep doing business with their current vendors.

However, strong loyalty to communications and high-tech providers among all consumers is rare. Only 13 percent of residential consumers and 25 percent of enterprise customers said they were “very loyal” to their vendors.

“The value customers place on better service experiences is consistent, but loyalty to their vendors is fleeting and tenuous,” added Hughes. “As a result, there’s a good chance customers will seek out better service elsewhere if their current vendors don’t improve.”

In the investment arena, 61 percent of companies surveyed indicated they are making investments or acquisitions in the downturn to boost customer service capabilities. And they increased their customer service operating expenses by an average of 68 percent. The research also found that nearly 60 percent of consumers and enterprise customers who believe their service and support experience has declined are more likely to eliminate or reduce the amount of business they do with their current vendors.

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