The “Digital-first” Delusion: Is Convenience Killing UK CSAT?

The UK customer service landscape is in a state of flux. While digital-first solutions have revolutionised the way we interact with businesses, evidence suggests a worrying trend: declining average UK CSAT indices coinciding with the continuing rise of “digital-first” strategies.

This stark contradiction begs the question – is the digital-first approach actually contributing to this dissatisfaction? The answer, unfortunately, seems to be a resounding yes, as Adrian Harvey, CEO of Elephants Don’t Forget, explains.

UK customers vote with their feet: 45.4% say “No” to bad tech

Digital-first proponents tout its obvious benefits: reduced costs, increased efficiency, and 24/7 accessibility. However, this one-size-fits-all approach is failing to recognise the diversity of customer needs and preferences. Not everyone wants to navigate self-service menus or troubleshoot technical issues online.

The Institute of Customer Service’s (ICS) UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) paints a stark picture. Their January 2024 report revealed that 58% of customers did not get their issue resolved after engaging with a chatbot. As a result, 53.7% said they still needed to speak with an agent or advisor. And, if we needed anymore confirmation that getting technology deployment right within the customer journey is paramount, 45.4% of UK consumers surveyed for the Index said that poor use of technology would result in them avoiding using / dealing with the organisation in the future. 34.3% said they would even warn their family and friends not to use them.

The UKCSI is regarded as the leading barometer of average UK CSAT across 13 sectors, so it is important to take the correlation of declining CSAT levels with firms prioritising digital-first strategies, seriously. Joanna Causon, Chief Executive of the ICS, has highlighted that average UK CSAT has declined (once again) to its lowest level since 2015.

Customers report feeling frustrated, unheard, and abandoned by automated systems that fail to address their complex enquiries, preferred communication needs and vulnerabilities. This dissatisfaction is manifesting in increased complaints, elongated resolution / wait / hold times, social media negativity, and brand switching.

Workforce challenges and tech overestimation: recipe for frustration?

There is also a concerning polarisation in terms of how organisations are choosing to respond to the UKCSI findings. Whilst many businesses continue to grapple with recruiting, developing, and retaining the necessary skills to deliver a good customer experience, many have also overestimated their ability to integrate technology seamlessly. This often leads to frustrated customers, burnt-out employees, and reduced productivity, as staff struggle to manage service issues.

Compounding this, customer needs and behaviours have become increasingly complex and diverse, creating a widening gap between those comfortable navigating digital interactions and those who aren’t. This results in a similar concerning polarisation of customer experiences, further influenced by individual factors like financial well-being, mental health, and tech proficiency.

While some organisations have wisely doubled down on their core purpose, values, staff in-role competency development, and service delivery – achieving consistent performance – the UKCSI suggests many others have been distracted by short-term commercial goals, losing sight of the essential link between engaged and competent employees, satisfied customers, and financial success.



The report by Elephants Don’t Forget – “Digital-first” isn’t working! – is available by download – Click Here

About the report: Recent UKCSI data reveals rampant dissatisfaction with a customer service landscape prioritising technology over human connection. As businesses chase the “digital-first” dream, many have inadvertently created a self-service labyrinth that is alienating customers and demoralising agents.

Some brands are charting a different course, proving that empowering agents is the key to customer satisfaction. They’re leveraging the power of technology, not to replace humans, but to support and elevate them.

Download this paper to discover:
• Why “digital-on-demand” is the true path to customer service success.
• How to craft a balanced customer journey that respects choice and preferences.
• The revolutionary AI tool empowering agents and transforming service at leading brands.

Elephants Don’t Forget are world leaders in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimise employee competency to improve performance and mitigate risk.

They financially guarantee that workplace training is learnt and retained by employees, and support customer service leaders in some of the world’s leading brands including Microsoft, Volvo, NewDay, Aviva, Allianz, Hastings Direct and LV= Insurance, to improve people performance and drive operational efficiencies.

For additional information on Elephants Don’t Forget, visit their Website

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