Consumers would still rather speak to a real person than deal with self-service technology over the internet, according to new research.
Despite the development of voice and speech recognition technologies, there is still huge resistance, mainly because the technology has been so poorly implemented in the past.
The research, carried out by MORI on behalf of Detica, the customer relationship management consultancy, warns companies against deploying internet self-service technology merely to cut costs and boost revenue.
The research report Self Service Technology: Putting the Customer in the Driving Seat found that only 11 per cent of the UK population is ready to adopt existing self-service technology.
That technology includes interactive voice recognition, the internet, interactive television and advanced speech recognition.
"If the internet is to work it must engage a wide spectrum of people, but 90 per cent of consumers are reluctant to engage and want comfort factors. Technology solutions are not designed with that in mind," said Colin Sheppard, strategic business development director at Detica.
Eighty per cent of consumers felt that the development of self-service communications technology was good in theory, but 51 per cent said that in practice they did not see how self-service made contacting businesses easier.
Eighty-two per cent of respondents said they felt organisations failed to take their needs into account when deploying self-service technology, and 73 per cent said they believed it was implemented just for the benefit of the organisation concerned.
"Businesses do CRM from the selfish starting point of reducing costs. They don't think about what it looks like from the customer point of view. Businesses need to rethink their programmes and research will help them do this," said Sheppard.
"A lot of companies have learned from that mistake and there has been a change in thinking in the past year, but still a few have an ostrich mentality," he added.
Sheppard advises companies to first decide who they want as their customers.
"If you're happy with having early adopters you don't need to change much, but if you want other customers you must change the way you deliver online solutions," he said.
The research identifies three criteria that are key to good customer service.
Firstly, both the process and the nature of the self-service solution should be designed to make the customer's life easier; secondly, the consumer should always feel that they are in control; and thirdly, the consumer should feel that the process is relevant and has been created with them in mind.
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