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Research indicates consumers still want personal touch

‘Always-on’ British culture has not eroded demand for traditional service
values in the travel sector, according to research published today by the
Henley Centre. The report, commissioned by BT, highlighted growing demand for
24/7 services. Businesses are under growing pressure to deliver the right
information, product or service whenever, wherever and however it is
required. However, the research showed that a ‘Demand Delta’ is emerging
between customer demands and the ability of organisations to satisfy these.

Although the internet has heralded a new age in service availability, online
access is not always enough, with 45% of consumers wanting a phone agent
available to talk to them whilst they complete a transaction on a company
website. Slow responses to phone calls are not tolerated by consumers either:
when faced with an engaged tone, nearly a third (31%) will try another
company and nearly a quarter (24%) give up altogether.

Henley Centre research has shown that when customers call a travel agent to
enquire about availability for a holiday the following year, if the phone
just rings indefinitely, 23% will call a different organisation rather than
try again. For one travel company, BT Inbound Analyst showed that over 8,000
potential customers a week failed to get through. If the average revenue per
call was £162.50, this could equate to a loss of nearly £7.5 million in
annual revenue. Where the lifetime value of customers is higher, even more
may be at stake.

Despite the desire for on-demand service, consumers do have reservations
about how far they interact with organisations. Trust is a major issue, with
37% professing to trust banks, and only 17% placing trust in insurance
companies. Service providers can take consolation however from the fact that
government is trusted by just 15% and political parties in general by just 6%
of those surveyed. 

Security also creates fears about sharing information. A massive one in four
UK adults knows someone who has had their identity taken or misused, or has experienced this for themselves. Worryingly, only a third of consumers are taking adequate measures, such as using different
passwords and shredding old documents, to avoid becoming a victim of identity


Gary Bullard, managing director, UK, BT Global Services, commented: “The rate
at which consumer expectations continue to grow is staggering. Customers want
instant access to the best products, advice and information. A big challenge
for travel businesses is to replicate this quality of service and innovation
across all channels, including the web and the phone.

“Unfortunately, not all companies have developed this level of sophistication
and as a result we are seeing the emergence of this ‘Demand Delta’ between
consumer expectation and the actual level of service. Unless companies
address this, their customers will become isolated, resulting in reduced
revenues and internal staff frustrations.”

For businesses looking to win new customers and retain existing ones,
customer relationship management (CRM) technology is widely regarded as a
valuable tool. Despite high levels of investment, however, 80% of businesses
aren’t making the most of CRM to support four key areas of customer service:
multi-channel management, outgoing contact, development of a single customer
view, and targeted marketing.