07/04/2014 11:56 BST | Updated 06/06/2014 06:59 BST

Customer Service Sorrows

What's your biggest gripe when it comes to customer service? Automated answering machines? Long wait times? Being shunted from department to department? Being forced to follow up over and over again?

Recent research from Iron Mountain revealed that four in five UK consumers say their top complaint when dealing with customer service departments is having to explain the same problem to different people, while 50 per cent say they dislike having to chase up written correspondence by phone. The research results are set out in this customer service infographic.

But how many of us are still writing to customer service departments? Surprisingly, more than half of companies (56 per cent) still receive the majority of their customer enquiries on paper. However, where companies have forged ahead in tracking digital communications with their customers, many are actually leaving a significant proportion frustrated by not processing and managing paper enquiries to best effect.


(Source: Iron Mountain)

Close to three in five organisations (59 per cent) don't have a process for dealing with incoming paper. And a surprisingly high number (57 per cent) wait for their customers to follow up paper correspondence by phone before taking any action. Many (39 per cent) admit they are unsure what to do with a written enquiry and so simply file it away.


(Source: Iron Mountain)

As consumers, we have a right to expect all correspondence to be taken seriously by a company, whether it's a phone call, a disgruntled tweet or a hand-written letter. Given that up to a quarter of us will take our business elsewhere following poor customer service* and two thirds of customers say they are willing to spend more with a company that provides excellent customer service,**you would think that more companies would be working harder to keep their customers happy.

Businesses need to realise that people still like to communicate on paper. Not everyone wants to pick up the phone and some complaints and enquiries are too sensitive for social media. Consequently, businesses that fail to integrate paper into their customer relationship management systems are going to lose out. We expect organisations to have instant access to a comprehensive view of our history and be aware of all correspondence, regardless of the form it arrives in.

Paper and digital information can co-exist without sacrificing technological innovation or a customer's needs. I would recommend companies to embrace a paper-light approach, where inbound customer documents are automatically scanned and the relevant data extracted, validated and entered into the customer service process. Older or less essential documents can be indexed and archived for easy retrieval if required. This approach ensures we all get the quality service we expect and deserve, no matter how we choose to get in touch.

* CTMA World

** 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer