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NZ banks rank high in customer service

New Zealand’s banks are leading the way when it comes to customer service, but telecommunications companies have a long way to go, according to a comprehensive new survey from Colmar Brunton.

One-third of respondents to the Colmar Brunton Customer Experiences Survey said they have had a particularly good experience when dealing with their bank in the past 12 months.

But one in five New Zealand consumers report having had a negative experience when dealing with their telco provider in the same period, with phone companies contributing one-third of all bad customer experiences. In addition, particularly bad telco experiences outnumber particularly good ones by four to one.

“Banks and airlines have done a great job of ‘onlining’ and automating the service experience in a way that feels both personal and customised,” according to Dick Brunton, the joint founder and current chairman of Colmar Brunton.

“But businesses should be wary of going down the automation track without considering how it feels to the consumer. Telcos are widely criticised for automating their phone systems in a way that is cold, impersonal and actually makes it harder for consumers to interact with them.”  

Respondents cited the following Kiwi companies when asked to name one business that they feel is the most dedicated to providing the customer with the best possible service:

  1. ASB                             
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Kiwibank          
  4. Westpac                     
  5. BNZ                 
  6. National Bank    
  7. New World      
  8. ANZ                             
  9. TSB
  10. Vodafone

Mr Brunton says how companies handle the transition to online and telephone customer service is increasingly key to how consumers perceive them. ASB has been a leader in this area and has been first to establish the first virtual bank branch via Facebook, through which a customer can book an appointment with a virtual staff member online and have a web-based conversation.  

There is also strong evidence that a customer-driven approach is better for a company’s bottom line than a purely profit driven one. Brunton said that the world’s best brand builders have a relentless commitment to customer experience excellence.

“Organisations that authentically put the customer first build more brand value for their shareholders than those who put shareholders first,” he says.

Overall the personal customer experience in New Zealand has improved in the past five years. That’s mainly because of a significant reduction in negative customer experiences to 59 per cent this year, from 72 per cent in 2006 when the survey was last conducted.  

But a bad customer experience can still be dangerous to corporate reputations and earnings; respondents are twice as likely to tell others about a bad experience than a good one. They also have more tools to do so with the proliferation of social media.

“The adoption of social media means that consumers are sharing their experiences, good and bad, through a forum which lives on well after the original incident has been forgotten,” Mr Brunton adds. “The stories, and detail that respondents offered when explaining their negative experiences, demonstrates a real viral danger, as stories take on more meaning than the initial experience as they are passed along.

“Still, New Zealanders are reasonably forgiving of a problem with customer service, but what really matters to them is how it’s handled and resolved. In fact, pulling out all the stops to remedy a situation is the biggest driver for great customer experiences.”

Mr Brunton notes the survey shows that companies which make the commitment can turn around their customer experience. Banks this time around contributed 37 per cent of all particularly good experiences cited by the survey respondents. But five years ago, that figure was just 24 per cent.

Colmar Brunton’s Distinctive Customer Experiences in New Zealand study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1020 New Zealanders aged 15 years and over. It was conducted in July and August 2010.