Almost three quarters of consumers surveyed (74%) said they interact solely online with at least one types of commercial or public sector organisation.

CA, who commissioned the survey of 1,000 UK and Ireland consumers, said this was a sign of the maturity of customer interaction online and warned businesses to avoid customer churn by offering viable online service alternatives to call centres.

The survey, carried out by market researcher Vanson Bourne found the call centre is increasingly seen as a premium service with associated high service-level expectations. But despite this, consumers believe that call centres are delivering a poorer level of service quality and performance.

“This increases the risk of producing higher churn as customers either switch provider or move to pure play online providers,” said CA.

Cost was seen as the most favourable advantage of online versus call centres by 92% of those surveyed, followed by twenty-four hour convenience (89%), the need to only give out personal details once (85%), speed of navigation (77%) and the ability to deliver a reliable service (68%).

Additionally, only 8% of people said they found getting information on additional products and service easy when using a call centre, and when looking at performance in the last year, 70% of people have been asked either “occasionally” or “frequently”, to call back because the provider’s systems have been slow or have gone down. A further 55% of people said they would switch telecoms company if they received a bad level of service.

Bradley de Souza, CA’s UK and Ireland Communications, Media and Entertainment Division development director said there are now. One reason for the large number of consumers using online as their sole means of interacting with an organisation is that an increasing number of organisations are setting up premium rate numbers and moving away from freephone ‘0800’ services.

“As a result consumers are now viewing call centres as a premium service and have higher service expectations associated with them, and call centres are failing to raise the bar,” said de Souza. “When you’re paying for a service it’s simply not acceptable for it to fall down. If these providers are to reduce customer churn then they need to bridge this service quality gap. Customers don’t have infinite patience but most are patient enough to give us time to fix the issues,”

CA said they are immediate and positive steps organisations can take to improve the service of their call centre functions including the use of a single sign-on identification solution so that customer details need only be given once (just like the internet experience).

It also advocates the introduction of key call centre monitoring applications and hardware to ensure that slowdowns and failures are identified quickly and dealt with proactively. And it urges organisations to identify and remove obvious bottlenecks. When call centres become overwhelmed by customers, capacity problems are often compounded by congested large area networks (LANs), poorly managed telephone systems, and complex applications.