Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Study Reveals Consistency Lacking in European Contact Centers

October 19, 2006

Customer service as a whole shouldn’t vary much from country to country. Although tolerance levels tend to fluctuate depending upon the culture, consumers tend to expect value for their purchases and an acceptable level of customer service when contacting the company from which they purchased a service or product.
Coleman Parkes was commissioned by British Telecom (BT) to conduct research on customer service across key western European countries, including the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and the Benelux region. Using a ‘mystery shopper’ approach, Coleman Parkes used both online and telephone methods to make inquiries in each country. A total of 232 companies were surveyed in eight different countries.
The study revealed that on average, three contact channels were easily identified on each company’s Web site, including standard mail, telephone and e-mail. The majority of the sites visited had this information correct and up to date. Spain stood out in this example however, as less than half of contact details were accurate.
Consistency of response was also studied and was found to be somewhat hit or miss across telephone and e-mail contact. Just over a quarter of UK companies gave the same response to a query via both telephone and e-mail. France and Benelux reported 18 and 16 percent response consistency, respectively, and more than 90 percent of companies in Ireland and Spain provided different answers to the same question. 
While offering customers multiple channels for communication with the company is a great way to enhance service offerings, it somewhat negates the effort when consistency is lacking among the channels. Even though UK companies are leading the pack with a 25 percent consistency rate, this still indicates that customers may be receiving incorrect or incomplete information 75 percent of the time.
These findings indicate a lack of proper resources within the call and contact centers to appropriately address the inquiries received. Are agents making ‘best guesses’ when asked a question by a customer or are they simply provided with sub-standard systems that offer generic information?
For Spain consumers, one has to wonder if maybe they just don’t care. Is it possible that Spanish companies do not bother to provide accurate information because their target markets are laid back enough to accept things basically ‘as is’? It is extremely likely that the consumer does not know that the information they are provided could be incorrect. The company is at an advantage in that they can tell the customer anything they want to appear to be responsive and can get away with it until such a study is conducted.
The problem with such findings, however, is that the world is shrinking in terms of the economy and consumers have more choices now than ever before. Geography no longer limits the ability to business anytime and anywhere. With these facts comes the reality that competition is increasing in every industry, every day. The differentiator is service and without delivering a high quality level, consumers will spend their money elsewhere.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.