Survey: Defecting consumers could have been retained

New York -- Although consumers are defecting in growing numbers, the majority say they could have been retained, according to survey results released Wednesday by Accenture.

According to the Accenture Global Consumer Survey, in 2012 one-in-five consumers switched companies they buy from -- including retailers, wireless phone and Internet service -- marking a 5% increase in switching over 2011 levels. However, the survey also found that 85% of consumers say the companies could have done something differently to prevent them from switching.  

Among those consumers who would have stayed if their provider had acted differently, two-thirds (67%) pointed to having their customer service issue resolved during their first contact as a factor. More than half (54%) might have remained loyal if they had been rewarded for doing more business with their provider.

Among retailers specifically, the rise in switching was 22% in 2012, up from 16% in 2011.

Broken promises are a top area of frustration for consumers, according to the survey: 63% of respondents indicate it’s extremely frustrating when a company delivers a different customer service experience from what it promised upfront.

Other frustrations that make consumers more likely to switch include:

  • Having to contact customer service multiple times for the same reason (65%);
  • Dealing with unfriendly customer service agents (65%); and
  • Being on hold for a long time when contacting customer service (61%).

“The sobering reality is that ‘tried and true’ strategies for customer acquisition, loyalty and retention are struggling to keep pace with consumers who are perpetually in motion, more technologically savvy than ever, and increasingly unpredictable,” said Robert Wollan, global managing director — Accenture Sales & Customer Services. “The news this year is that customers want to be loyal but customer service often fails to meet their expectations.”

Other survey key findings include:

  • 48% of respondents say that they have higher expectations of getting specialized treatment for being a “good” customer;
  • 31% prefer companies that use information about them to make their experience more efficient; and
  • When evaluating a company, 31% of respondents say they trust comments posted by people they know, echoing the importance of word of mouth. More than a quarter (28%) say positive comments in social media affect purchasing decisions and 28% say negative comments do so.