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UK Businesses Suffer from Conflicting Attitudes towards Customer Service

12-07-2005

Customer service research commissioned by Avaya shows that businesses are at risk of losing customers due to contradictory attitudes towards customer service.

Customer service research commissioned by Avaya (NYSE:AV), a leading global provider of business communication applications, systems and services shows that businesses are at risk of losing customers due to contradictory attitudes towards customer service. The research identified a lack of investment in customer retention and in contrast to customer acquisition.

 

The Avaya Research Report entitled 'The Battle Between Customer Retention and Acquisition' targeted 100 senior executives with strategic responsibility for their respective call centres. It found that half of organisations running call centres saw customer retention as the biggest challenge they face. However, when it came to investment, organisations were twice as likely to spend more on acquiring new customers than they were on retaining existing customers. Furthermore, whilst 40 percent of those surveyed recognise the benefit of investment in client retention, none have any firm plans to invest.

 

It is clear that one of the most important assessments a call centre can make is to evaluate the call types they received, the reason for those calls, what type of customers are calling and what customer contact channels are used. However, the Report found that as many as 50 percent of organisations surveyed do not use customer segmentation to help them understand the needs of their customers. This would imply that a very simplistic 'one-size-fits-all' approach to dealing with customers is the norm.

 

This demonstrates a clear conflict in attitudes towards customer service that Avaya believes must be tackled.

 

Nigel Solsby, Contact Centre business development director for Avaya says: "Businesses with a one dimensional focus on client acquisition to drive revenues is an outdated notion. It is time for senior management in call centres to sit up and take note that this strategy is failing their organisations and customers. It is a well-known fact that it costs businesses five times more to acquire customers than to retain them. At Avaya, we believe that the focus should be on revising attitudes towards retaining existing customers through investing in and monitoring customer satisfaction."

 

Call centres have come to play a vital role in providing customers with access to information and transactions to support increasingly flexible work and home lifestyles where set hours and service are no longer the norm. For a large organisation, dealing with thousands of customers, an effective call centre can play an important role in building loyalty and retention. An inefficient call centre, on the other hand, can become a great source of frustration and dissatisfaction and can often cause customers to change suppliers. Avaya recommends four steps in its "Customer Service Charter" to improve customer retention and promote better service:

  1. Benchmark Customer Service Strategies - It is vital for executives looking to improve customer retention to take a look at their organisation's service through the eyes of their customer. This can be done by making time to test your own call centre and benchmark the experience against competition - the Report revealed that only a third of executives surveyed claimed to call their own call centres at least once a week to evaluate directly service provided to customers.
  2. Get it Right First Time - ensure that calls are routed to the appropriately skilled experts within the call centre the first time. For example, within a financial services company, a caller looking for a pensions specialist can be routed through to the right expert straight away.
  3. Customer Experience Evolution - customer satisfaction surveys must be frequently analysed and monitored to ensure that the experience for the customer is refined continually. In addition, previous data or information on the customer must be able to be accessed easily by the call centre agent. However, 26 percent of executives surveyed complained that whilst they can access customer data, their call centre agent staff often experience problems making use of it. A further 19 percent complain that they have insufficient access to data in the first place.
  4. Integrated Communication Channels - for example, web, phone, email should be all linked so that the customer can choose by what means they would like to contact the organisation.

 

Notes to Editors

Benchmark Research completed a total of 100 interviews with senior executives responsible for call centres within the UK by telephone during April, May and June 2005.

 

For the Report, organisations with call centres that employed at least 75 call centre agents were targeted in a broad spectrum of industries including retail, IT, telecoms, finance, technology/manufacturing and public sector. Interviews were held with senior executives with strategic responsibility for the company's call centre(s). These people included Customer Service Directors, Operational Directors, Contact Centre Directors, Marketing Directors and Chief Operating Operators.

 

About Avaya

Avaya Inc. designs, builds and manages communications networks for more than one million businesses worldwide, including over 90 percent of the FORTUNE 500®. Focused on businesses large to small, Avaya is a world leader in secure and reliable Internet Protocol telephony systems and communications software applications and services.

 

Driving the convergence of voice and data communications with business applications - and distinguished by comprehensive worldwide services - Avaya helps customers leverage existing and new networks to achieve superior business results. For more information visit the Avaya Web site: http://www.avaya.com

 

About Benchmark Research

Established in 1985 Benchmark Research is a full service agency providing business and consumer research. Benchmark Research Ltd. has a specialist focus on IT & Telecoms markets. We build creative, customised research solutions that are delivered using leading edge technical skills. Clients use our experience to help guide their decision making in a range of areas including customer retention and development, concept validation, Branding and positioning and product development. Although we have worked in almost every sector imaginable key areas of speciality include: IT and Hi Tech, Telcos, Manufacturing, Construction, Training and Education, Public Sector and Publishing.

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