retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Accenture is out with a new global study saying that “two out of three consumers switched companies –  including wireless phone, cable and utilities – as result of poor customer service in 2011 even as their satisfaction with the services provided by those companies rose.”

Here’s how the results are framed by the study:

“Among the 10,000 consumers who responded, the proportion of those who switched companies for any reason between 2010 and 2011 rose in eight of the 10 industries included in the survey.  Wireless phone, cable and gas/electric utilities providers each experienced the greatest increase in consumer switching – five percentage points.  This includes consumers who switched entirely to another provider as well as those who continued to do business with their current provider but added services from another provider – a new, but growing trend.   According to the survey, customer switching also increased by 4 percent in 2011 in the wireline phone and internet service sectors.

“The survey also found that fewer than one-quarter (23 percent) of consumers surveyed feel ‘very loyal’ to his or her providers, while 24 percent indicated that they had no loyalty at all.  And, only half (49 percent) indicated that they are strongly influenced by at least one loyalty program offered by their service providers.

“At the same time, however, consumer satisfaction with their providers’ customer service actually increased in 2011 in 10 attributes measured by the survey.  These attributes include the wait time for service (33 percent satisfied compared to 27 percent in 2010), the ability to resolve issues without speaking with an agent (38 percent satisfied compared to 33 percent in 2010) and speaking with just one customer service agent to resolve an issue (39 percent satisfied compared to 32 percent in 2010).”

The study suggests that many companies have blind spots, like not using digital channels to engage with shoppers sufficiently (see our piece about the new Coke Research Study, above), or not even realizing how vulnerable consumers are to entreaties from other competitors. And they don’t realize that broken promises can translate into broken relationships.
KC's View:
I read these results, and I can hear “Satisfaction” playing in the back of my mind...

I can't get no satisfaction.
I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no...

While this study is a) global, and b) all-encompassing when it comes to the kinds of companies it looks at, it seems to me that there are couple of core lessons here.

Just because you’re doing better does not mean that you are doing well enough.

Loyalty is generally non-existent. At best it is the exception to the rule. And shoppers’ affections are always in play.

In part, this is because most marketers create loyalty systems that are keyed to financial rewards, and while those are well and good, by their very nature they can be matched and beaten by any competitor with the will and the way.

And I would suggest that maybe “enough” is a word that ought to be banished from most marketers’ vocabularies.

Marketers have to earn loyalty by getting touch not just with shoppers’ wants, but also their needs ... anticipating them even before shoppers do. (This is one of the oft-quoted passages from the Steve Jobs biography, in which Jobs explained Apple’s success.) Instead of listing to “Satisfaction,” maybe marketers need to be paying attention to another Rolling Stone song...

No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need...