18 Sep SMES Can Emulate Customer Service Champions – Without Busting Their Budgets

Consumer magazine Which? released its annual Best and worst brands for customer service this week, polling 3,500 consumers on their likes and dislikes.

The survey is a ‘must read’ for all UK SMEs, lisiting the UK’s top 100 brands and shaming those companies whose customer service fails to make the grade. Topping the poll this year was cosmetics company Lush, followed by telephone-based bank First Direct and kitchen supplies company Lakeland. The bottom slots were all reserved for telecoms and energy companies with BT rated at 98, npower 99th and ScottishPower in last place.

By far the biggest customer service bugbear for the survey respondees was non UK-based call centres – nearly half those surveyed (46 per cent) listed these as their number one gripe. Automated telephone systems (36 per cent) were the second biggest irritant, closely followed by being passed around lots of different people (32 per cent).

The results of the Which? survey reflect findings on telephone customer service from Vodafone. It found just 14 per cent of customers surveyed want to interact with brands in a way other than telephone and email. While big brands may have the budget to improve customer service through headcount increases and improvements to systems and processes, telephone answering services can prove a low cost measure that ensures calls are handled promptly, efficiently and professionally.

The latest survey by Which? confirms the continued dominance of the telephone as the first point of customer contact for the overwhelming majority of consumers, despite the hype surrounding social media.

SMEs ignoring the need to provide good telephone customer service do so at their peril – in previous surveys 85 per cent of those receiving poor customer service said they would go elsewhere, leading to lost revenue and missed opportunities.

SMEs can learn from the best and worst rated brands in the Which? survey – second placed customer service champion First Direct is a good example of a company achieving growth through its customer service.

Providing excellent telephone customer service can attract new customers to a business through recommendation. First Direct was one of the top rated customer service champions and topped the same survey last year. It has the highest customer service scores of any UK financial institution, yet has no branches or face-to-face customer service. It offers a 24 hour telephone customer service with ‘real people’ on the end of the line and this received high praise from the survey’s respondents. Despite customers receiving no interest on their current accounts, 54 per cent would recommend the bank to others.

Using a telephone answering service is a cost-effective way for SMEs to align their telephone customer service with the key findings of the survey: companies which make the customer feel important and listen to their concerns score highly with consumers.

At MessageBase we understand that SMEs have to balance expenditure with service standards. Our bespoke range of telephone answering services can help SMEs reach five star levels of customer service. We answer your calls as if we are sitting beside you without the need for investment for further staff or lengthy tie-ins.

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