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In 2012, one in five consumers switched to a competing provider from a company they traditionally bought from, marking a 5 percent increase in this behavior from last year, according to Accenture’s eighth annual Global Consumer Survey. Of those consumers who have switched, the study finds, 85 percent said the companies could have done something differently to retain their business.
Among those consumers who would have stayed had their provider acted differently, two-thirds (67 percent) pointed to having their customer service issue resolved during their first contact as a primary factor. More than half (54 percent) said they might have remained loyal had they been rewarded by their provider for repeat business. Of the ten industries covered, the highest rates in switching were among wireless phone providers (26 percent of consumers switched in 2012, up from 21 percent in 2011); internet service providers (23 percent switched, up from 19 percent in 2011) and retailers (22 percent switched, up from 16 percent in 2011).
“The sobering reality is that ‘tried and true’ strategies for customer acquisition, loyalty and retention are struggling to keep pace with consumers who are perpetually in motion, more technologically savvy than ever, and increasingly unpredictable,” said Robert Wollan, global managing director, Accenture Sales & Customer Services. “The news this year is that customers want to be loyal but customer service often fails to meet their expectations.”
Broken promises are a top area of frustration for consumers, according to the survey: 78 percent of respondents said they are likely to switch providers when a company delivers a different customer service experience from what it promised upfront. Additional frustrations that motivate consumers to take their business elsewhere include: having to contact customer service multiple times for the same reason (65 percent); dealing with unfriendly customer service agents (65 percent); being put on hold for a long time when contacting customer service (61 percent).
Selling More with Tailored Experiences
The study found that a tailored experience is critical to a strong customer relationship, with nearly half (48 percent) of respondents saying they have higher expectations of specialized treatment for being a “good” customer. A similar proportion (50 percent) said it is extremely important for service representatives to know their customer history.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of respondents prefer companies that use information about them to make their experience more efficient from one step to the next. However, only a quarter (24 percent) said their providers deliver tailored experiences.
Michelangelo Barbera, managing director, Accenture Sales & Customer Services in Europe, Africa and Latin America, said that retaining customers’ business requires the development of “tailored offers and interactions that connect with consumers’ specific needs.”
“Taking such proactive steps to keep customers requires companies to use analytics to mine the vast stores of data they possess to gain greater insight into customers’ desires and intentions and behave in the ways that customers want them to,” Barbera added. “Failing to use that data equates to not listening and can result in customers searching for someone who will.”
Corporate Websites, Expert Review Sites Top Social Media Influence
As technology provides an ever-growing number of channels for consumers to interact with companies, the Accenture survey found that on average consumers use five to six channels to learn about and select providers, including: word of mouth (79 percent); corporate websites (71 percent); expert review sites, news sites and product comparison sites (63 percent); and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter (47 percent).
“Consumers, particularly in North America, appear to be migrating to increasingly polarized camps: one group that prefers traditional interactions, such as telephone, and one tech-savvy group that demands seamless interactions across all digital platforms,” said Kevin Quiring, managing director, Accenture Sales & Customer Services in North America. “Many companies, however, approach their customers with a decades-old, ‘one size fits all’ sales and service model that they must evolve to satisfy the different ways consumers want to interact with the companies they buy from.”
Accenture’s 2012 Global Consumer Survey includes online responses from more than 12,000 consumers in 32 countries regarding their experiences with up to four companies in 10 industries.