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Consumers Defect In Growing Numbers But Majority Say “You Could Have Kept Me,” Accenture Research Finds

In 2012, one in five consumers switched companies they buy from, including wireless phone, internet service, and retailers, according to new research released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN). This marks a five percent increase in switching over 2011 levels. However, the eighth annual Accenture Global Consumer Survey also found that the majority (85 percent) of consumers say the companies could have done something differently to prevent them from switching.

The survey, which polled more than 12,000 consumers in 32 countries, found that among those consumers who would have stayed if their provider had acted differently, two-thirds (67 percent) pointed to having their customer service issue resolved during their first contact as a factor. More than half (54 percent) might have remained loyal if they had been rewarded for doing more business with their provider. The survey revealed that, of the ten industries covered, the largest rises in switching were among wireless phone providers (26 percent of consumers switched in 2012, up from 21 percent in 2011); internet service providers (23 percent switched, up from 19 percent in 2011) and retailers (22 percent switched, up from 16 percent in 2011).

Broken promises are a top area of frustration for consumers, according to the survey: nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents indicate it’s extremely frustrating when a company delivers a different customer service experience from what it promised upfront. Seventy eight percent of consumers say they are likely to switch providers when they encounter such broken promises. Other frustrations that make consumers more likely to switch include:

  • Having to contact customer service multiple times for the same reason (selected by 65 percent of consumers)
  • Dealing with unfriendly customer service agents (65 percent)
  • Being on hold for a long time when contacting customer service (61 percent)

“The sobering reality is that ‘tried and true’ strategies for customer acquisition, loyalty and retention are struggling to keep pace with consumers who are perpetually in motion, more technologically savvy than ever, and increasingly unpredictable,” said Robert Wollan, global managing director—Accenture Sales & Customer Services. “The news this year is that customers want to be loyal but customer service often fails to meet their expectations. In the digital marketplace, companies must improve social listening capabilities and apply predictive analytics designed to quickly identify and respond to potential customer issues before problems arise.”

Selling More With Tailored Experiences

The Accenture study found that a tailored experience is critical to a strong customer relationship. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents say that, compared to 12 months ago, they have higher expectations of getting specialized treatment for being a “good” customer. A similar proportion (50 percent) say it is extremely important for customer service people to know their history so they don’t have to repeat themselves each time they call.

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