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Why Half of UK Consumers are Missing Appointments with Public Sector Organisations

This article was published on September 16, 2021

With around half of UK consumers missing a public sector appointment due to communication issues since the start of the pandemic, soaring to 70 percent of 18-24 year-olds, Vonage’s new research launched today reinforces the need for organisations to integrate voice chat, SMS and social messaging apps for a unified and streamlined agent and customer experience to serve customers on their preferred channel.

image depicts frustrations customers experience when having to repeat themselves

Vonage’s independent survey of 2,000 UK adults who have contacted public sector organisations since the Covid-19 lockdown started* uncovered that 36 percent of respondents felt extremely frustrated after their last contact with a public service organisation. Nearly half of those (46%) attributed this to not being able to make contact through their preferred communications channel. (Call and SMS were the preferred channels that were not available - 48% & 44% respectively). In fact, 27 percent of respondents reported that their favoured channel wasn’t available, yet this would’ve enhanced the customer experience for 71 percent of those questioned.

Providing a compelling insight into consumers’ contact preferences, our research reveals that 88 percent of respondents want public sector organisations to send them important messages directly, with email named as the preferred channel for a third of respondents. Top reasons cited were ‘the message is documented for reference’ and ‘I can easily respond if needed’ (both 47%). A quarter of respondents chose SMS as their preferred channel as they can be ‘reached instantly anywhere, any time’ (41%) and ‘I’m unlikely to miss the message’ (36%). Overall, twelve percent favoured messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger with these proving most popular with the younger age group (aged 18-34). These figures will likely increase as the younger generation matures. 

Such powerful statistics clearly demonstrate the significance of customer experience in the public sector and expose the huge disparity between a service user’s contact preferences and the channels made available to them. The fact that almost half of those surveyed, and almost three quarters of 18-24 year-olds, have missed appointments due to these issues points to a growing problem in how the public sector communicates with its citizens. NHS data shows that missed general practitioner (GP) appointments alone cost the NHS £216 million a year, meaning the annual cost to the public purse of all these missed appointments across the sector is likely to be very significant.

Sending out letters may have worked well enough in the past, with only 18 percent of those over 55 having missed an appointment, but preferences are changing rapidly, with our research highlighting that this age group now favour email (46%) and SMS (23%).

We are at the start of a communications revolution as organisations worldwide accelerate their digital transformation journeys to offer a better customer experience, increasingly recognising that it is a key competitive differentiator. This research highlights that in an increasingly virtual world, it is essential for public sector organisations to stay connected to service users from anywhere through their preferred communications methods as the demand for exceptional customer experiences has never been greater.

Vonage is a supplier on Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) G-Cloud framework for its Messages API, together with its Vonage Business Communications and Vonage Contact Center solutions. The G-Cloud framework enables public sector organisations to search, evaluate and procure cloud services from select suppliers. CCS supports the public sector to achieve maximum commercial value when procuring common goods and services. In 2019/20, CCS helped the public sector to achieve commercial benefits worth over £1bn, supporting world-class public services that offer best value for taxpayers.

For further information, download the research whitepaper.


*Research conducted via London-based insights agency, Opinion Matters. Sample: 2,003 UK-based adults who have had reason to be in contact with public sector organisations since the Covid-19 lockdown started. Field dates: 27.05.2021-03.06.2021.

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