According to a new international survey of consumers the cost of poor customer service in 16 major industrialized economies causes businesses to lose a total of $338,5-billion per year when customers defect and abandon their purchases as a direct result of poor customer experiences.

The hardest hit industries across all countries surveyed are financial services, cable and satellite TV providers, and a variety of telecommunications companies. The average value of each lost relationship across all countries surveyed is $243 per year. Losses were defined as transaction taken to a competitor (63% of the total) and transactions abandoned entirely (37% of the total).
The survey asked consumers their priorities and the changes most needed to improve the quality of their customer service experiences in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, the UK and the US.
While many larger economies saw greater impact, the losses were not always proportionate to the size of the economy. For example, Brazil and Mexico represented two of the top four countries impacted.
In the past year financial services firms saw more than $44-billion in lost revenue. And cable and satellite TV providers alone suffered more than $37-billion of losses. Wireless carriers and Internet service providers each had $36-billion in lost revenue. Landline carriers also lost $33-billion.
Some industries that were hard hit, like financial services, also had some good news. Financial services companies were viewed more positively than negatively, while other industries, such as telecommunications, were not as fortunate: negative sentiment outweighed positive sentiment by a two-to-one ratio.
Consumers were asked to select the industries that did the best and worst job of customer service. The consumer’s choice for best customer satisfaction with industry is shown in blue, and worst industry is shown in red. The most positive ratings are for consumer products, travel/hospitality, and financial services. The most heavily negative ratings are for telecommunications and government.
Consumers across all countries cited key reasons that they leave. Assisted service is well developed, with the overwhelming majority of consumers saying their most satisfying experience occurred because of a capable and competent customer service representative. But self-service that is not intelligently integrated with assisted service is a key area of concern. Consumers feel the most significant root causes of poor service are:
* Being trapped in automated self-service;
* Being forced to wait too long for service;
* Repeating themselves; and
* Representatives that lack the skills to answer their inquiry.
There were some broad areas of agreement among consumers from many regions. Three common threads emerged among all countries. First, consumers are demanding better integration between self-service and assisted service, including voice self-service and eServices. The most requested improvements in all countries were to be able to start in voice self-service or the Web and get live assistance from an agent, and to start in e-mail and have better integration with agent-assisted service. In other words, “Don’t ask me twice".
When asked what they would most like to see companies deploy to improve service, 40% chose human service, but more than half of consumers chose at least one new communication channel among their top choices. In other words, “Treat my interactions as a conversation.” Over 18% selected as their first choice better integration of communication channels, 16% chose enriched content such as video, and 16% chose web assistants or avatars.
Consumers were also asked to identify the factors that make the biggest difference in improving satisfaction levels. According to the data, consumer satisfaction increases when companies meet four key needs: competency; convenience; proactive engagement; and personalisation.
Proactive outreach emerged as an area in which consumers want greater engagement. More than 86% of consumers defined proactive engagement as a “strong benefit” or would “welcome proactive assistance” when stuck on the Web or in some form of self-service.