Customer service not quite a top priority it seems

Despite constant rhetoric about customer satisfaction being a top priority, it seems to be a hollow promise.

A recent study conducted by Redshift Research, on behalf of Pegasystems Inc., has found that nearly 1 in 3 Britons would rather fill out their annual tax returns, scrub their toilet or sit in a traffic jam on a hot, sunny day then have to deal with their service provider’s customer service team.

The survey, which looked at attitudes to customer service in retail banking and broadband sectors, highlighted something other than people’s dislike of cleaning their toilet: that customer service teams are not doing enough to fulfil people’s needs.

The reasons for the discontent are that those 1 in 3 believe that their bank does not know or understand the customer and their needs well enough, despite the fact that almost half the respondents listed ‘having a customer service team that understands their needs’ as a top priority.

A further reason for the discontent was the customer being offered irrelevant products or services, which a quarter of respondents listed as a leading annoyance.

Personally I’m not a fan of having to use customer service via telephone and online, period. I don’t like having to wait until someone is available to talk to me as I feel there are better things I could do with my time (plus let’s be honest, who is actually a fan of the hold music). I also find it difficult to get my problem across a telephone or a computer. And finally, I cannot contain my rage when I’m told that I will have to call or see a different number or person because my problem does not correspond to their service.

With that in mind, I find going into a branch is the solution to all my issues. Yes, I have to find one and get to it, and yes, I have to queue. But when I get to the desk, I find it much easier to explain my problem face to face. Not only that but 99.99% of the time, the person behind the counter will be able to help me. Maybe they have to step away quickly to confirm.

Maybe they even have to call somebody else to do it. But I feel much more secure in the knowledge that this is their job and they can help find the answer to my problem faster than I ever could frustratingly trying to explain it down my phone (plus I’m not wasting any phone minutes, on the off chance that the number is not free call).

With talk of digitisation all the rage these days, and even more so, the future of branches, banks need to realise the value of good customer service, because before long, the security of being able to walk into a bank branch may not be as easy as it once was.

Of course this is easier said than done, when you have hundreds of customers calling each day with a variety of problems. But if the banks are constantly going to use rhetoric about customer satisfaction being their top priority, they need to follow this up with some good, well, customer satisfaction. This survey proves that so far, they have been all talk.

It’s the digital banks I’m worried about most. If this is how unhappy people are with customer service now, it means these new challengers will face considerable hurdles in being able to make a digital only channel scenario work.

It’s something I think the up and coming digital challengers are going to need to prioritise hugely. In their case, customers won’t have the reassurance and feeling of security that they might be able to get from being in a physical branch and talking face-to face with someone who they know can help solve their problems.

Hopefully this survey is going to raise the alarm back at bank HQ, that they are going to have to, not only step up their game in helping us, but possibly rethink the entire way they try to help customers meet their needs.

It is one advantage that the new challengers have: they can start afresh, build entirely news systems that will help us to address our problems. The traditional ones, on the other hand, may have to strip down their current systems and build again, hopefully achieving better results. After all, it can’t be that hard to get someone to choose to call you rather than clean their toilet (not in my house anyway).