Accenture recently asked over 1,000 U.S. consumers about their in-home service experiences across four industries: appliance installation and repair, electric and gas utilities, cable/satellite television and internet service providers, and home improvement companies. The findings indicate that the quality of customers' interaction with service personnel can significantly influence their desire to continue doing business with the company from whom they purchased the service. As companies look to services to deliver revenue and margin, they should take care to invest in the people who deliver the service.
Our questions focused on customers' satisfaction with their service experiences and how those experiences reflected upon the companies being represented in the service visits. Based on survey responses, encounters with service personnel are fairly common, particularly with cable, satellite, and internet service providers, providing a significant data set from which to pulse the market. Respondents' experiences highlight both the characteristics of the current service environment and also what they are looking for from their service providers. Here is what the survey revealed.
First, service interactions demonstrably impact customers' desire to continue doing business with the company from which they purchased the service. A strong majority of customers believe that their recent service experience had a positive impact on their desire to continue doing business with their service providers. Second, it is important to get service right the first time.
Over 55% of consumers said that a service provider's ability to complete the service or repair on the first visit to their home most heavily influenced their perception of the service experience. Third, customers do not hide their displeasure and they are seeking new ways to express it. Over a third of consumers surveyed responded that they had a negative service experience and complained about it. While 90% of those complainants vented their displeasure directly to the service provider, social media sites are an increasingly popular outlet as well.
The survey results indicated several clear paths forward for companies looking to build their service businesses.
Choose Partners Wisely. While outsourcing is an attractive option to provide greater service reach at lower cost, companies should establish standards, policies, and metrics that hold their outsourcing providers to the highest possible standards of customer service.
Train. Because customers place such a high premium on the knowledge that service personnel bring to the job, companies should consider comprehensive training programs that identify and address the specific competencies required by specific roles, deliver and reinforce training in a manner appropriate for a mobile and distributed workforce, and reinforce customer expectations.
Engage. While many companies are putting tremendous focus on social media within their media and public relations strategies, the message is only part of the answer. Companies' ability to effectively manage their online images will rest far more in their investments in the quality of the products and services they provide rather than in how they put their face forward in the online world.
Even as companies turn to services as a source of revenue and margin improvements, they cannot forget that getting closer and "owning" customer relationships can be a double edged sword. Done well, customer facing services open the door to even greater revenue and margin opportunities. Done poorly, they may force a loss of sales, market retrenchment, and worse.
Offering a compelling and unique service is not enough for a services-based strategy to succeed. Consumers are clear in their belief that the ability of service personnel to effectively perform the service and to represent the selling company is central to securing their loyalty. This loyalty, and the repeat product and service purchases that it engenders, will be the proof point that determines the success of the ongoing shift to services.
Companies that invest in consistent, quality service delivery, effectively manage their outsourced service providers, and understand the new dynamics of customer feedback will be well positioned to succeed in the service marketplace.