Survey: Fewer consumers switch service providers

New York City -- For the first time in six years, the number of consumers who switched service providers as a result of poor customer service declined in 2010, according to the latest edition of an annual consumer behavior study by Accenture.

But while fewer people are switching, that does mean that service has improved. In fact, the study shows that consumer satisfaction is down across the board -- in each of the 11 service characteristics survey respondents were asked to rate. Their satisfaction declined in areas ranging from having customer service available at convenient times to being able to access service through multiple channels.

The Accenture Global Consumer Survey  found that 64% of consumers switched from at least one service provider -- a bank, utility or wireless carrier, for example -- due to poor customer service in 2010. Retailers (26%) and banks (22%) demonstrated the highest rates of consumer defection, followed by Internet service providers (19%), wireless carriers (17% ) and landline providers (16%).

The survey, which assessed consumer attitudes toward customer service and marketing and sales practices in 10 industries among more than 5,800 people in 17 countries, also found that more than two-thirds (67%) of global consumers are not willing to compromise on levels of product quality in exchange for lower prices and more than half (54%) are not willing to compromise on levels of customer service. And, according to the survey, the percentage of consumers who identified price as the reason for selecting a new provider declined from 75% in 2009 to 57% in 2010.

“As the global economy recovers, we’ve identified some telling shifts in consumer attitudes,” said Robert Wollan, global managing director, Accenture Customer Relationship Management. “The unexpected reversal in switching rates indicates that despite the decline in satisfaction with service, other factors, including loyalty programs and the use of technology, are influencing consumers’ decision to stay with or leave their providers.”

In other findings:

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of global consumers reported that the use of technology in the pre-sales phase -- such as e-mail advertisements, online banners, product comparison tools and online ordering -- has improved their experience when deciding to purchase a service provider’s offerings.
     
  • More than two thirds (66%) say their growing use of technology for customer service through such channels as automated phone attendants, live Internet chats and self-service options on a website has improved the level of service over the past five years. In each Accenture survey since 2007, that number has increased.
     
  • Word-of-mouth is the source of information respondents use most (76%) and consider most important (56%) when deciding whether to do business with a service provider. Word-of-mouth extends to postings on social media sites, where one in four respondents say they trust the comments about companies and brands posted online by people they know.