Mind the gap
As world leaders gather in Davos they will be warned of the widening wealth gap by Winnie Byanyima from Oxfam who is the vice chair of this year's event in Switzerland. According to Oxfam 1% of the population will shortly control 99% of the wealth in the world.
Eminent speakers will address the theme "The New Global Context" and amongst other factors, will caution that technological advances risk creating greater division, if the benefits are not shared by all.
Back in the UK, leaders of customer service from some of our biggest brands in retail, utility, mobile, banking and media gathered at the CCA Leadership Forum Council hosted at Which? offices in London. This group also looked at the dangers of a widening gap this time between organisations and consumers who are losing patience with traditional customer service channels. By choosing to make complaints directly to 'the top’, they use influence and technological know-how to get their voices heard and their issues resolved. The issue is compounded when Twitter becomes the channel of choice for complaints; although currently only 18% of the population have a Twitter account and 2% are active users (Ipsos Mori).
Consumer research shows that "speed to resolve" is miles ahead of other drivers for keeping customers onside, however lots of organisations have centralised their complaints function, (leading to delays) often to comply with regulations from FCA and other bodies.
Whilst organisations like Google and Apple have changed our world in unimaginable ways, providing slick and fast functions at our fingertips, this pace hasn't been mirrored in customer service operations for most of our everyday brands, resulting in a clunky and unfamiliar experience. Response times can seem like a million miles away from the swish and clicks of our tablets and smartphones.
CCA Industry Council has committed to working with 34 of the leading brands across all sectors in a collaborative venture, to look creatively at how we can help shape a better future for consumers and brands alike; by really drilling deep into emerging trends and today's truths alike.
The group considered the Future Foundation’s nine emerging consumer trends spanning the world of changing demographics, advances in artificial intelligence and technological developments in the not too far off horizon.
CCA Special Adviser Ben Page at Ipsos Mori presented the latest stats on consumer complaints, all pointing to the fact that accepting responsibility, speed and authenticity are key to improving the status quo. Richard Lloyd, Executive Director at consumer champions Which? provided some valuable input about consumer issues in general and also how Which? as an organisation deals with its own growing subscriber base of consumers and businesses.
From CCA benchmark data, 50% of organisations admit that those who go straight to the top probably do get an enhanced service; not really surprising yet is it fair? Surely the pressing issue is building trust so that real complaints from whoever and from whichever channel, are dealt with as speedily as possible by empowered staff. The rewards from this are far reaching and could even give organisations real competitive advantage in a marketplace where margins are tight, and where it is becoming difficult to demonstrate differentiation.
Failing to "Mind the Gap" has wider potential consequences than simply reduced consumer confidence; the rise of intermediary organisations is already evident in the form of claims companies ombudsmen and others, who are seen as necessary in filling the void between consumers and companies. Entrepreneurs are actively creating new businesses out of the misery of consumers who have lost faith - our fictional scenario consideritdone.com is perhaps not too far away from reality. Reversing this trend will be difficult, but any organisation striving to keep pace and improve engagement with customers will need to ensure that "Mind the Gap" becomes the new Board mantra for 2015.