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A Nation Stuck On Hold: Kiwi Waste Over 22 Million Hours For Customer Service

Research from ServiceNow reveals wait times have increased for the second year running – up 13% from last year (nearly 20 million hours).

Auckland, New Zealand – 2 May 2024 – New Zealanders spent 22.3 million hours on hold to make a service complaint or resolve an issue in 2023, 13% higher than last year (19.7 million), according to the 2024 Customer Experience Intelligence Report (CXI) by ServiceNow, the digital workflow company.

This isn’t just frustrating; it’s hurting the economy. The time spent on hold during work hours equates to NZD$167 million in lost productivity.

The study of over 1,000 New Zealanders, conducted by Lonergan Research, reveals patience with bad service is forcing a ‘brand switch’ as 95% of Kiwi say they are changing their spending behaviour in 2024 as cost-of-living pressures bite.

New Zealanders looking to switch brands

Four in Five (81%) New Zealanders say that because costs are going up, they have less patience with bad service (up from 69% last year). More than half of Kiwi (57%) said they will look to switch brands to cheaper options in response to cost-of-living pressures and poor service.

Three in five New Zealanders (64%) will buy and spend less or search for better offers (57%) in response to rising costs.

When service goes wrong, Kiwi are also giving organisations less time to get things right with nearly 3 in 5 (57%) saying they will take business elsewhere after waiting only two to three days to have their issues resolved.

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However, it’s taking businesses more than a work week (5.9 days) on average to resolve customer issues – this is up from 5.1 days in 2022. Worryingly, this increase in service resolution time is unique to New Zealand, with other countries surveyed seeing issues fixed more quickly than last year.

“Time is a precious resource for New Zealanders. Yet millions of hours are being wasted by businesses who aren’t prioritising providing fast or accessible customer service. Patience has been tested and we’re now at breaking point. With financial struggles set to continue in 2024, we simply cannot afford to be sent in circles when trying to resolve issues. It’s costing people time, organisations lost business, and our country millions in lost productivity.” says Kate Tulp, Country Manager New Zealand, ServiceNow.

What does good service look like in 2024?

New Zealanders are demanding more access to customer service support whenever they need it, with 81% of Kiwi being forced to engage with customer service during work hours due to a lack of 24/7 customer service.

Respondents ranked speed, accessibility, and empathy as most important qualities for good service. At the top of the list was having the issue resolved quickly (70%), getting through to someone quickly (61%) and having an empathetic customer service agent who cares (55%).

Industries are facing an increase in complaints

The industries with the highest volume of complaints were utilities (62%), financial services (60%), and retail (57%).

However, despite having some of the highest numbers of complaints, New Zealanders ranked retail services (including fashion, homewares, food and beverage) the best for customer service. Government had the lowest average customer service ranking with only 18% ranking its customer service as good.

“Organisations that get it right with fast, accessible, and empathetic customer service will reap the rewards – more New Zealanders left a good review than complained last year. The grocery and supermarket industry is a great example of using AI-powered technology like chatbots to keep customers happy despite high numbers of complaints. It shows that the right investments in technology can make a significant impact on customer experience”, said Tulp.

AI to the rescue

With time on hold getting worse, New Zealanders think that AI could be the solution. Consumers believe that the key benefits of AI will be after hours service (72%) and improved speed and efficiency (63%).

Additionally, nearly half of New Zealanders (46%) say that they trust companies to use AI to improve customer service, while more than 2 in 5 (43%) believe new GenAI tools have made chatbots and customer service better.

“There has been widespread hesitancy to deploy AI, but our research shows that consumers across New Zealand are ready and eager to engage with technology to get things resolved faster. Not only will AI enable employees to get the answer into the hands of customers faster, it will also help brands reconnect with customers and do more, with less,” said Tulp.

Research Methodology

The research was commissioned by Service Now and Weber Shandwick and was conducted by Lonergan Research in accordance with the ISO 20252 standard. Lonergan Research surveyed 1,001 New Zealanders 18+ for the initial sample and 1,006 New Zealanders 18+ for the additional sample. Surveys were distributed throughout New Zealand including both capital city and non-capital city areas. The surveys were conducted online amongst members of a permission-based panel, between 24 November and 3 December 2023. After interviewing, data was weighted to the latest population estimates sourced from Stats NZ.

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