Survey: Customers Eager to Throw Off Service Appointment Shackles

Apparently years of complaints by consumers about long wait periods for service providers have gone unheeded: The standard three-to-five hour appointment period for in-home visits by cable companies, utilities and repairpersons is still very much in force, a new survey found.

The 2010 In-Home Service Appointment Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of SoundBite Communications, deliberately used evocative language to gauge just how deep consumers’ feelings ran on this subject, said Mark Friedman, chief marketing and business development officer.

“As we found, people feel quite strongly about it,” he told CRM Buyer. “We asked them if they feel like a prisoner while waiting, and 51 percent said ‘yes.'”

Billions Down the Drain

More than half (54 percent) of survey respondents said that offering a shorter window of time for scheduled service appointments would greatly improve their satisfaction and overall perception of the company.

Sixty-one percent said they would like service providers to make waiting easier by providing a text message with one hour’s notification, for instance.

Waiting for such appointments costs US$13.4 billion in lost workplace productivity, the survey determined, as 81 percent of consumers reported having to take time off or adjust their work schedules in order to be home during the service appointment window.

Brand Erosion

The resentment triggered by waiting for service calls can be damaging to a brand, Friedman said — especially if the service provider doesn’t do anything to accommodate its customers, such as restricting appointment windows to a reasonable length of time.

Some providers — notably cable companies — still seem to be operating with the mindset that consumers don’t have much of a choice as to providers, noted Friedman.

In regions where there is competition, he said, providers tend to be more sensitive to customers’ requests for shorter appointment windows and advance notifications.

We’re on Our Way

Some providers are implementing technology to solve this problem, Friedman said — including SoundBite’s own products.

The company just released its In-Home Service Appointment Solution, a cloud-based platform to design and manage proactive customer communications like the one Friedman described — that is, sending a text message to alert the customer that a service person is on the way.

Other channels include voice messaging, email messaging and predictive dialing. “It lets companies communicate with consumers over the full lifecycle of a service call,” said Friedman.

Proactive Customer Communications

This tech niche is called “proactive customer communications,” a software category that SoundBite has sized at $1.5 billion globally.

Tapped by SoundBite to provide an analysis of the space, Forrester predicted a growth rate of 10 to 15 percent a year.

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