There has been a 7% drop in customer retention compared to a one year ago, according to findings from a new survey by Verint Systems.
The latest large-scale study of more than 24 000 consumers in 12 countries across nine industry sectors, conducted in partnership with Opinium Research, found that consumers who prefer to do business through digital channels are more likely to swap providers than those that engage with businesses though human touch interactions, such as those that take place by phone via the contact centre or in-store.
The research also shows that 74% of consumers surveyed don’t like dealing with companies that don’t provide a phone number, 65% feel they receive better service speaking to someone than online, half (49%) think their enquiry is likely to get ignored via email and seven in 10 (68%) feel they can negotiate a better deal in-store or on the phone rather than online.
Across all sectors, 57% of consumers have been with their service providers for more than three years. Banks lead in terms of customer retention, with 73% of consumers reporting they have been with their provider for more than three years, whereas only 8% said they have been with their bank for less than a year. Mobile phone providers ranked second best, with 63% of consumers remaining with their provider for more than three years.
Japanese companies had the highest retention rates of all countries surveyed; an average of 64% of consumers have been with their providers for more than three years. French companies also fared well, with 60% of consumers staying with their providers for more than three years. Meanwhile, in the US, 55% of consumers have been with their service providers for more than three years.
However, South African, Brazilian, Indian, Mexican and British consumers are more prone to switching. Only 35% of Brazilians reported remaining with their providers for more than three years, followed by 46% of Indians, 50% of Britons, 50% of Mexicans and 53% of South Africans.
South Africans are the least loyal towards online service providers and retailers and are most likely to shop around when it comes to these brands. They still prefer speaking to someone on the phone or in person, rather than using digital communication channels, but indicated they would increasingly like to interact with service providers via a mobile app and an online account moving forward.
The study also shows a clear link between communication channel preferences and retention. Consumers who prefer to engage with organisations digitally are more prone to switching providers. Just under half (49%) of those who prefer to engage with organisations via digital channels have been with providers for more than three years, compared with 58% who prefer to pick up the phone and 57% who prefer to go in-store.
Tapping into the impact that different customer experiences have on loyalty and brand endorsement, the research highlights that consumers who have a good customer service experience on the phone or in-store are more likely to behave positively toward a brand than when online.
The study also revealed that consumers who have good experiences either in-store or speaking to someone on the phone are:
* 38% more likely to renew their product or service, even if it isn’t the least expensive option;
* 27% more likely to sign up to an organisation’s loyalty programme; and
* 19% more likely to leave a positive review.
“What’s clear is that a more personal touch in customer service helps drive retention and loyalty. This is a wake-up call for many organisations looking to introduce more digital channels with the aim of reducing costs and improving customer convenience,” notes Rachel Lane, director of customer analytics, EMEA at Verint. “As our research shows, consumers feel more positive about a brand when they interact directly with a person, so organisations need to consider how to make the digital experience more personal to avoid increased customer churn.
“Our research, which also investigated what service providers and brands believe their customers want, revealed that 91% recognise that customer service online should be quicker, more intuitive and better able to serve customer needs. That means organisations now need to focus on providing a more personal experience across all customer engagement channels to build the foundation for loyal customer relationships,” says Lane.