SA’s worst customer service revealed

South Africa’s worst customer service is to be found from within government agencies and utility providers, according to new research released by contact centre experts, Interactive Intelligence.

The research was carried out by Actionable Research among 1,407 respondents between February and March 2013 in seven countries – Australia, Brazil, Germany, North America, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In South Africa, the number of respondents totaled 364.

The surveys looked at customer experiences and expectations when dealing with company contact centres.

The South Africans polled for the global Consumer Survey felt the best customer service could be found within the hotel industry – voted by 61% of respondents, and in line with the global statistic.

Online retail stores also rated amongst the highest for customer service, at 45% (versus 51% globally), while 41% of voters said banks provided the best customer service (versus 45% globally).

The worst service however, was found in government agencies, with 85% ranking them among the worst, versus 52% globally, and utility providers (68% ranking them among the worst vs. 34% globally).

Point of contact

South Africans still choose a voice conversation with an agent as their preferred means of interacting with a contact centre, the survey found.

They expected an answer in under three minutes and also wanted agents to have all the relevant information at hand when they call.

Customers said a major frustration when dealing with a contact centre agent is a lack of knowledge on the part of the agent, with 79% in SA and 66% globally.

Being transferred multiple times before finding the right person to help (89% in SA vs. 66% globally) was also a bugbear, along with having to repeat information at different points of the interaction (64% in SA vs. 56% globally.).

Another major frustration South Africans cited when calling a contact centre is not being able to understand the agent when speaking to them on the phone (86% vs. 75% globally).

South African’s are also prepared to give credit where it is due as seven out of 10 local respondents, against 59% globally, say they have had an exceptional customer experience that made them want to share it with their family and friends.

Deon Scheepers, Strategic Consultant EMEA for Interactive Intelligence Africa, says the survey findings indicate that companies and their employees need to move away from the misconception that customer experience is a ‘touchy-feely, soft’ issue.

“Employees must be shown the bottom line impact of bad customer experience and bad customer service,” he said. “Staff need to understand that the company will not exist without the customer, and adopt a ‘The customer pays my salary’ mindset.”

Nearly two thirds (63%) of South Africans would use Facebook to interact with a company for customer service, and more customers will use social media to praise a good service experience than complain about a poor experience.

45% of South Africans have shared a great customer experience on a social networking site, compared with a global average of 27%, the report noted.

Interactive Intelligence is a provider of contact center automation, unified communications, and business process automation software and services.

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SA’s worst customer service revealed