Consumers are shying away from providing feedback to companies, says new study

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Consumers are shying away from providing feedback to companies, just as firms are ramping up their efforts to capture the voice of their customers, a new research study carried out by Verint Systems Inc. and the Customer Contact Association (CCA) has found. A recent survey* conducted among nearly 150 senior customer service and contact centre managers at blue chip UK organisations reveals that 95% are investing more in their customers by listening to what they have to say and analysing customer insights.

However, a parallel survey of approximately 1,000 GB consumers carried out by Ipsos MORI** for Verint reveals a neglected nation with only a quarter (24%) believing companies take notice of their views; while just 29% agree they feel valued as a customer. What's more, it notes that Brits are reluctant to express these feelings. Over half of the consumers surveyed have never made a complaint, and only 16% believe posting about customer service issues on social media helps resolve issues. Despite these perspectives, one in three (33%) believe in the power of social media and how it can make brands more accountable.

Further, the study affirmed that not all consumers fit into one basket. More specifically, it surfaced significant and very different groups of customers. One of which, if properly engaged and incentivised, could act as powerful drivers of loyalty and growth – Brand Champions. In fact, collectively over 33% of customers would, if properly engaged and rewarded, stay loyal for several years and actively endorse the brand to friends, family and social media followers. Today, only 13% of customers in the UK GB could be considered Brand Champions***.

Another group of customers can be defined as "Silent Likers;" 30% of customers fit into this category. Like Brand Champions, they are happy with the service they receive, are brand loyal and don't complain. However, they are not brand advocates and don't share their experiences with others.

The study also reveals 24% of consumers are more flippant "Churners," gravitating towards cheaper deals and typically switching providers within two years. These individuals tend to be least loyal but are among the most likely to receive loyalty-based incentives. The last category of customer is the "Fence Sitter." Some 16% of customers appear to be ambivalent towards the service they receive. They don't engage with brands, nor share their experiences.

UK businesses gradually develop ears

Despite the growing investments in "voice of the customer" (VoC) initiatives, professionals admit their companies have some way to go. Though over 80% agree senior management is taking a closer interest in the VoC, they tend not to practice what they preach. Less than a fifth (17%) of respondents said they actually analyse customer feedback every day.

The study further found companies failing to move with the times, for instance, neglecting to track customer discussions on social media in favour of older methods. Almost half (45%) admit they rarely if ever, analyse social media posts, while over 80% use more dated feedback surveys and complaints analysis. Almost three quarters of service leaders (71%) agree they could do more to thank their best customers, and almost half think that offering more one-off benefits could lead to a 10% increase in how much customers spend.

Nancy Dalton, Global Head of Barclaycard Learning and Quality Assurance, comments, "Our core strategy is anchored in service and creating an emotional connection with our customers. This requires that we listen to and act on all of their channels of feedback. Several aspects of these research findings really resonate as fundamentally it shows that any changes and actions taken need to be communicated back to the customer to ensure they know their voice is heard and see the value in their relationship with us. In addition, we want to not only engage with and reward our Brand Champions, but also expand this group further by understanding and responding to the feedback provided by Silent Likers and Fence-Sitters as well. This can really impact how our customers are talking about us."

Claire Richardson, VP at Verint notes, "For those who believe social media could be the great leveller between businesses and consumers, our study's findings may come as a surprise. The research has shown evidence of large swathes of valuable customers being overlooked and a high degree of cynicism about companies' attitudes towards them."

She adds, "It's pleasing though to see companies gradually recognising that talking to customers, and expressing gratitude for their loyalty, can deliver real dividends. Organisations need to unify their initiatives within a single Voice of the Customer Analytics strategy, which encompasses contact centre, social, in-store and surveys. The customer service function can be more effective than any other part of the business in gathering customer insights and making them actionable. And, they should be doing all they can to inform customers that they are acting on what they say."

About the Research

Business Research:
*The research was conducted via Verint and the Contact Centre Association among 143 contact centre professionals in the UK during September and October 2013. Positions of respondents varied from director to management, middle management, team leaders and team members. The research explores focus on businesses' attention on customer retention versus acquisition, attitudes towards customer loyalty, customer communication channels and customer insight strategies.

Consumer Research:
** The research was conducted on i:omnibus, Ipsos MORI's online panel omnibus, in two waves. In wave 1, a nationally representative sample of 1,000 British adults aged 16-75 was interviewed over 3-5 September. In wave 2, a nationally representative sample of 1,002 British adults aged 16-75 was interviewed over 26-28 November 2013. Questions focusing on the industries specified below received c500 responses per wave (i.e. c1,000 in total). Questions without industry focus received 1,000 responses in the first wave only. The survey data has been weighted by age, gender and region to ensure it represents a national mix of respondents.

The research explores attitudes towards services provided by organisations in nine sectors (mobile phone, home telephone/landline, home broadband; banks; credit card providers; insurance; high street retailers; supermarkets and utilities).

***Additional analysis and segmentation of the research was carried out by Brands2Life to formulate the consumer groups during December 2013.

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