Customer service: What do European Consumers Think?

In Italy and Spain, a context where telephone and email continue to be the main communication channels between brands and customers, people are increasingly more inclined to use “emerging” channels such as apps and instant messaging.

Banks and telephone operators are the most contacted sectors when it comes to issue complaints and in relation to after-sales services. In Italy, another particularly popular contact reason is the need to have more information before the purchase (34%).

As for the impact of customer services on the brand, the use of social media and instant messaging systems are increasingly more central drivers in strengthening a company’s image. Furthermore, especially in Italy, the quality of service is fundamental for building brand loyalty: when customer services provide excellent service, Italian consumers tend to spend more and to have a higher level of loyalty (83%).

The future of these services will be increasingly more remote (via telephone, chat, website, etc.) for 73% of Spanish and 65% of Italians, especially to test the availability of a product (77% of British and 73 % of Italians), make appointments (66% of Germans) and book a product (51% of Germans).

This is what emerges from the Customer Services Observatory 2020, a research by BVA that has investigated different aspects of customer services of European companies, with thematic focuses on quality, impact on consumers, brand loyalty and emotional drivers in the relationship with the customer. The survey was conducted on a sample of 5,000 people, divided equally between France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy, in the period between 24 August and 2 September.

TRADITIONAL CHANNELS STILL HAVE A CENTRAL ROLE, BUT A GROWING INTEREST TOWARDS DIGITAL EMERGES IN ITALY AND SPAIN – Although traditional channels such as the telephone and e-mail still play a central role in the relationship with the customer, in Italy channels such as chatbots and apps are the ones showing the greatest growth.

In general, Italy and Spain seem to be the countries where it is most likely to use “emerging” channels such as social media (25% of Italians in the sample and 21% of Spaniards) or instant messaging services (29% of Italians and 27 % of Spaniards).

MOST CONTACTED CUSTOMER CARES AND CUSTOMERS’ REQUESTS – Banks and telephone operators are undoubtedly the most contacted sectors among the countries examined, with peaks in Spain (49%) and Italy (47%). The analysis also shows that Germans rely on customer care especially when dealing with e-commerce sites (40%). Complaints and after-sales services are the main reasons that push respondents from all countries to rely on customer care, with peaks among Germans (45% for complaints and 44% for after-sales services) and among the French (52% and 42%).

In addition to the most frequent reasons, in Italy another particularly popular contact reason is the request for more information before purchasing (34%).

CUSTOMER SERVICES AND IMPACTS ON BRAND IMAGE – The fact that a company uses new digital channels – social media and instant messaging systems – to communicate with its customers is a central driver in evaluating a brand’s image and reputation. This factor is increasingly important for the vast majority of Spanish (77%), Italian (75%) and British (68%) consumers, while it is less fundamental – but still growing – for the French (61%) and Germans (55%).

When a consumer judges the image of a company, the quality of the relationship with the customer remains fundamental for almost all consumers in all five surveyed countries, with a peak of 93% in Germany and Spain and a lower consensus in Italy (88%). If the quality of the relationship with the customer is considered poor, then French (88%), Italian (86%), Spanish (90%) and British (87%) consumers tend to change their mind and are even inclined not to buy a product or cancel their subscription. The Germans are still inflexible, but they are more likely to give it another chance (76%). In the event that customer service should offer excellent service, Italians are the consumers who tend to spend more and to be more loyal to the brand (83%).

EXPERIENCE WITH CUSTOMER SERVICES: IN GERMANY CUSTOMERS ARE SATISFIED BEYOND EXPECTATIONS – Germany is the only country with a substantial – albeit minority – share of consumers who rate the experience with both telephone (27%) and f2f (21%) corporate customer services above their expectations. In all other countries, the quality of service is generally in line with one’s expectations.

BRANDS’ INVESTMENTS: REMOTE OR DIRECT SERVICE? – German consumers have the impression that companies are investing more and more to manage the customer relationship remotely (88%), while in Italy, on the contrary, consumers believe that brands are making more efforts to start a relationship with the customer in presence (64%).

CONSUMERS’ FEELINGS – Germans are the consumers who have had the most important emotional response with the various company sectors dedicated to the relationship with the customer, feeling more listened to and privileged than customers in other countries. In Italy, the sector that aroused the most surprise was e-commerce (64%), while a feeling of privilege was experienced when interfacing with the Retail sector (58%).

In the last year, Spanish, German and British consumers have experienced positive emotions several times when they have interfaced with a company, while the same is not true for Italians and French.

In any case, more and more consumers will turn more often to companies remotely (65% of Italians and 73% of Spaniards), especially to probe the availability of a product (77% of British and 73% of Italians), make appointments ( 66% of Germans) and book a product (51% of Germans).

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