Greater IT spending means customer service success

Research claims that customer service directors believe that an increase in their IT budgets will directly affect customer satisfaction levels

Those employed in customer services believe there is a direct correlation between customer satisfaction levels and technology, according to research published as part of National Customer Service Week.

More than three quarters (76 per cent) of customer service directors claim that their output could be enhanced by a greater investment in IT, claims the study conducted by Vanson Bourne.

Eight out of ten of those surveyed also said they wanted more assistance from IT departments to help ensure their customer service initiatives were successful.

The research also highlighted the fact that these pleas for closer alignment between customer services and technology come at a time when consumers' expectations continue to grow to a rate that is increasingly hard to keep pace with.

Almost all respondents (97 per cent) said that customers are more likely to complain today than in 2001, with 85 per cent claiming that this increased pressure is one of the biggest challenges they face.

"At a time when customer service is increasingly in the spotlight, customer service directors seem to be crying out for more technology, said Marina Stedman the marketing director at IT Business Management specialist Touchpaper, which commissioned the research.

"...There is a feeling that they want more help from IT to ensure that they are getting the most from the systems that they do have."

The research, which surveyed 100 customer service directors from organisations in the private sector with more than 750 employees, also revealed some of the trends that those in the hot seat hope will lessen the burden they currently face.

More than half (62 per cent) believe that, in an increasingly demanding world, self-service technology would enhance customer service levels, while just over three-quarters of respondents said they're pinning their hopes on the success of a multi-channel strategy.

"We are seeing a growing emphasis on self-service systems which empower customers to resolve many simple enquiries themselves," added Steadman.

"Another emerging area is intelligent self learning tools that learn through experience to present customer care staff with the types of information which are most appropriate to specific customers."

A report published last week by The Institute of Customer Service (ICS), which organises and promotes National Customer Service Week, showed that customers have a priority list when determining how satisfactory their experience has been.

The ranking criteria includes overall quality of the product or service supplied, friendliness of staff, handling problems and complaints, speed of service, helpfulness of staff, handling enquiries, being treated as a valued customer, competence of staff, ease of doing business and, finally, being kept informed.

In the wake of its findings, ICS is lobbying the government and public and private sector organisations to work with it to create a national customer satisfaction index (CSI) to ensure country-wide best practice.

"Customers base their evaluation of suppliers on whether they have received the results, outcomes or benefits they were seeking," said Robert Crawford, a director at ICS.

"Customers search for and stay with companies that do best what matters most to customers, so surveys must be based on these same criteria."

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