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10 February 2020

Innovation shouldn’t forget about customer service

Customer service is one area that customers around the world have been desperate for improvements

By Nic Ray, BrandsEye SA CEO

Innovation is a key differentiator. From boardrooms to keynotes, we’re told that to grow a business and compete for market share we must always be innovating. Huge sums are invested in new products and services that make it easier for us to open a bank account or sign up for broadband from our mobile phones. These are welcome developments but innovation shouldn’t just be about grand new disrupters, sometimes where we need to innovate is on the basics. It’s on the basics that businesses stand to win or lose customers.

Much of the time we’re told that innovation is supposed to be driven by customer needs. For many industries, customer service is a perfect place to start. Responsive customer service is one area that customers around the world have been desperate for improvements. This isn’t just my personal opinion. It’s the view of the consumer that has repeatedly surfaced in BrandsEye’ industry research in the UK, Middle East and South Africa, from telcos to banking. According to McKinsey, 75% of online customers expect a response within five minutes

UK challenger banks offer lessons for SA’s new entrants

Our challenger bank research in 2019, looked at the new digitally-focused banks in the UK and identified customer service as the key to both Monzo and Atom Bank’s success. Of the banks analysed, only Monzo and Atom received more praise than complaints. And they were the only banks where turnaround time complaints comprised less than 10% of emotive conversations.

Slow turnaround time was also the main contributor of customers who threatened to leave their banks. Turnaround time complaints exceeded all other reasons for consumers threatening to leave a bank by almost 30 percentage points.

Our research suggested that the challenger banks appeared to be more adept at resolving customer queries on social media. Nearly 11,000 consumers (34% of all emotive conversation) complained about the time they spent with high street banks, compared to 5,000 (20.5% of emotive conversation) with challenger banks. Lengthy processes and digital downtime from high street banks was forcing many consumers to consider digitally astute competitors.

Telcos are connecting us to social but they need to help us when we get there

As smartphone penetration in SA grows, and data prices become more affordable , telcos are connecting more users to social media. Increasingly these platforms are becoming the preferred customer service channels for Millenials and Gen Z. According to Microsoft, “79% of millennials – have a more favourable view of brands that offer a mobile-responsive customer service portal, reflecting a desire to be empowered to resolve issues wherever and whenever they want.”

Our South African telcos research found that customer service required some serious improvements. Close to half of complaints on social media went completely unanswered. Of those that were answered, 61% concluded with the consumer being unhappy. 37% of the customer service complaints were about the slow turnaround time. These poor results saw one in ten customers threaten to leave their telcos.

Similarly, in the UK, where 12% of unhappy customers threatened to quit their mobile networks, turnaround time was a key concern.

Equip your teams with the tools required to deliver better turnaround times or face increasing churn risk

From new fintech apps to OTT streaming services, banks and telcos continue to look for new ways to stand out and delight their customers. And with new challengers in mobile banking and insurance, in SA and the UK, we’re likely to see some exciting developments in 2020.

While focusing on these welcome innovations, companies cannot afford to forget that delivering on customer service is going to pay the greatest dividends. Businesses that can deliver on customer demands of always-on and responsive service on their preferred channels are going to build long term brand loyalty and retention. Brands that continue to provide lengthy turnaround times and long waits dealing with the call centre, will pay a hefty price in customer churn.

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