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Heir to the Phone? Not in the UK

A new survey reveals that U.K. customers prefer to reach customer service via phone. Find out which industries topped the list for poor telephone service and how other channels rank against the good old dog and bone.

Telephone is king in the U.K., according to research by voice services company Natterbox, which surveyed 1,000 U.K. adults in early 2012. Despite the growing popularity of social media and the maturity of email as a service channel, U.K., customers still want to access service and merchandise providers’ services by telephone. But, when customers do pick up the phone, the experience isn’t always spot on: More than six in ten customers told pollsters that they’d switched their loyalty because a company offered bad telephone customer service.

Customer Loyalty Lost

What industries took the hardest hit in customer loyalty losses? The poll revealed that Internet providers were the most unpopular, with one in five respondents (22%) saying they had cancelled their services because of a frustrating phone experience. Mobile phone companies came in second place, with 20% of frazzled customers switching to a competitor. Telephone companies (15%), energy suppliers (13%) and banks (10%) had also lost customers. In total, 62% of U.K. consumers cancelled some kind of service because of a poor telephone experience.

Phone Vs. Social Media and Email

Social media – even email – as a customer access channel, trail the telephone with U.K. customer preference. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they preferred to communicate with a company by phone, compared with 28% choosing email. By contrast, just 4% said they preferred to use Twitter to contact customer service departments.

"Almost everyone is on social networks these days but these results reveal the telephone is still king when it comes to customer service. There's nothing like being able to speak to another human being to get a problem resolved," says Neil Hammerton, CEO at Natterbox. "But with this reliance on call centers comes pressure to deliver the goods quickly and professionally. Busy consumers don't have the time or patience to tolerate shoddy service and it only takes one bad experience to lose their custom for good."

Keep the Phone Channel on Track

To make sure you’re telephone access channel is in tip-top condition, focus on the fundamentals. "There are seven factors that affect caller tolerance," writes Brad Cleveland in Call Center Management on Fast Forward. "They influence everything from how long callers will wait in queue to how many will abandon, how many will retry if they get busy signals, and how they will react to automation, such as an interactive voice response (IVR) system."

Here are the seven factors, identified by ICMI research nearly a quarter of a century ago, that affect how callers perceive the service the call center is providing:

    1. Degree of motivation
    2. Availability of substitutes
    3. Competition’s service level
    4. Level of expectations
    5. Time available
    6. Who's paying for the call
    7. Human behavior