Brands should not forget the personal touch

There has been a long held view, backed by countless studies that customers of banks and energy suppliers are reluctant to switch providers because of the hoops they are required to jump through before they can reach the promised land of a new bank or supplier.

This loathing to wade through the required forms, phone calls and frustration, may historically, it could be argued, have led to firms becoming complacent, content in the knowledge that customers would stomach all manner of poor service and broken promises because the alternative was too much hassle to contemplate.

However, the deregulation of the electricity market and burgeoning choice in the financial services field has boosted the choices available for the doughty consumer willing to do what it takes to switch.

With increased competition, it would be logical to conclude that financial services and utility firms are doing all they can to offer great service, but a new report suggests otherwise.

According to a study carried out by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories in partnership with Datamonitor, one in four people have left a financial services company or utility provider in the past year following poor customer service.

The main grumbles will be familiar to us all; hard-to-navigate self-service systems, long waiting times and constantly having to repeat information.

Consumer satisfaction varied dramatically between communication channels, with most people happy with live agents and e-mail, but disillusioned with voice self-service and mobile/SMS service.

This last finding should prove to be the most illuminating not only for the banks and energy suppliers but for all customer facing brands.

There can be no doubt that companies have invested significant time and effort in customer service in the last 20 years but as studies such as this have found, it could be that the monies pumped in to automated services have not necessarily led to greater satisfaction.

At a time when every round of job cuts, particularly at the part nationalised banks, seems to include the closure of a call centre, brands should take note. Increasingly savvy customers are less willing to accept poor service and are more likely to switch if they do not receive the personal touch.

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