Irish consumers want it all and they want it now

‘The non-stop consumer is mobile, social and harder to impress’: Irish people are increasingly impatient when the online experience doesn’t measure up

‘The non-stop consumer is mobile, social and harder to impress,’ says Accenture Ireland’s head of strategy, Ryan Shanks. Photograph: Thinkstock

‘The non-stop consumer is mobile, social and harder to impress,’ says Accenture Ireland’s head of strategy, Ryan Shanks. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

Travelling, writing, talking, banking, television, music, friendship, money and countless other things besides – all have been radically transformed by technology. The scale of the internet’s impact on Irish consumers is further emphasised in a new report.

Research by Accenture, published in this newspaper today, reveals that Irish consumers have fully embraced tomorrow’s world today and are exploiting its potential to a huge degree.

The survey also paints a picture of increasingly impatient consumers who want to be rewarded for their loyalty, but are fast to take their business elsewhere if they have been let down by a service provider.

Ninety per cent of consumers are now using at least some online channels to make purchasing decisions. And the use of mobile devices to access services and support jumped by 50 per cent in a year.

The analysis, part of Accenture’s 10th annual Global Consumer Pulse Research, examines how customer dynamics have evolved, and gauges the experiences and attitudes of consumers towards interactions with providers.

 

Take a hike

Consumers are not afraid to take their business elsewhere if they’re dissatisfied: two-thirds of customers surveyed said they have switched providers because the service they received wasn’t up to scratch.

The web is the critical arena where consumers make their switching decisions. Nine out of 10 people use at least one online channel when searching and evaluating providers. Corporate websites are used by 73 per cent of those polled, while 68 per cent use comparison sites and 61 per cent say they look at online consumer reviews from sites such as TripAdvisor and Amazon.

The top two reasons people went online in search of information about goods and services last year were “convenience”, at 74 per cent; and “speed of access”, at 69 per cent.

Interestingly, a growing number of Irish customers believe the online arena is where the best deals are to be found: 46 per cent say value is the primary reason they trawl the web, up 14 per cent in 12 months.

The changing world is reflected in the fact that those looking for in-store advice has dropped by 10 per cent, to 61 per cent.

Word of mouth is still the most powerful influencer: 82 per cent of respondents say they learned about a company’s products and services from someone else.

The other key finding of the research puts the number of Irish customers using mobile devices to search for products and services at 42 per cent, a jump of 50 per cent in a year.

 

Enhanced service

Irish companies have been slow to capitalise on this changing pattern of consumption. When asked about the effectiveness of Irish companies in using mobile devices to provide “a truly enhanced customer experience”, only 31 per cent think that companies here are “very effective” and 20 per cent think Irish companies are “not effective at all”.

The changing nature of the way we do business continues to modify our expectations: 30 per cent of those polled say they have higher service expectations than a year ago. Speed and a customised experience are of greatest importance to Irish consumers.

According to the survey, 81 per cent say the key drivers for customer service is ease of getting it, while speed is of great importance to 68 per cent of respondents. More knowledgeable employees are important to 65 per cent, while specialised treatment for good customers is important to 45 per cent.

Almost two-thirds of Irish consumers agree that the use of technology such as self-service on a website or via mobile device, and live chat via the internet and social media, have improved customer service levels in the past two years. Just under three-quarters say companies are combining new forms of interactions with traditional channels, up 8 per cent on last year.

“The non-stop consumer is mobile, social and harder to impress,” says Accenture Ireland’s head of strategy, Ryan Shanks. “They want to choose when and how to interact with companies, and they have higher expectations of the service they receive.”

 

Switched on

The survey holds warnings for sloppy service providers: 67 per cent of consumers say they have switched providers due to poor service at least once, much higher than in other European markets.

The sector that is most vulnerable to switchers is retail, where one in four have taken their business elsewhere after being displeased. At 20 per cent apiece, landline services and internet service providers round out the top three for switching due to poor service.

Just over two-thirds of switchers are driven by price, but 86 per cent are motivated by customer service when considering other providers. When asked about the best way to hold on to customers, 73 per cent of those surveyed said the key was to resolve any issues at first contact.

Irish customers also want to be recognised for their loyalty. Fifty-seven per cent said being rewarded in this way may have prevented them from switching, 8 per cent higher than their global counterparts.

When faced with substandard customer service, the Irish act fast: 53 per cent stopped engaging with the company immediately; 77 per cent promptly started engaging with new providers. Most of us shared our negative experiences with friends and family: 86 per cent have shared their horror stories with at least one person, while one in five have posted negative comments online, a position that is static compared to last year.

“The customer’s sense of loyalty to an existing provider is often eclipsed by a competitor’s tailored service,” says Accenture’s head of digital, Vicky Godolphin. “Our research indicates that the Irish customer craves a personalised experience, and if they don’t find this with their current provider, they will promptly look elsewhere.

“Businesses who wish to attract and retain customers, and capitalise on the ‘switching economy’, must create engaging and tailored customer experiences where consumers are recognised and rewarded for their custom and loyalty.”

This year’s Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research survey included online responses from 23,665 customers in 34 countries. The survey included 364 respondents from Ireland.

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