Consumers may leave your store, and mail carriers may deliver your products, but the customer service experience rarely ends once goods have been exchanged. In many instances, it's the services rendered post-purchase that truly reveal the level of competence and commitment driving any given company forward. These experiences are those that take root, cultivating trust and long-lasting loyalty in the process.
To explore the current customer service experience, Actionable Research conducted a survey, sponsored by Interactive Intelligence, which digs into the drivers behind the consumer dynamic. The "Customer Service Experience Study" was designed to help researchers learn about what makes a great customer experience when consumers interact with a business via telephone, online, or Web chat, and what consumers want and expect from the technology behind ideal experiences. This survey also polled IT professionals and customer care leaders about what they want and expect from technology in order to deliver great customer experiences.
The following statistics, which provide data from 1,407 consumers and 453 professionals across seven countries, offer insight into how both consumers and professionals perceive the current state of the customer service experience:
- Overall, when it comes to service interactions, customers value knowledgeable agents and a timely response above all else. Conversely, consumers most frequently found not being able to understand the agent when speaking to be the most frustrating aspect of customer support phone interactions.
- Hotels, online retail stores, and banks offer the best customer service experiences, while technology companies, utilities, and government agencies ranked the lowest.
- When communicating, consumers interact with service or support by phone first and foremost, followed by email and Web chat. In terms of phone usage, consumers agree that the average acceptable wait time before a customer support representative becomes available is less than three minutes.
- Consumers believe that account information is the most valuable piece of information an agent can have available before interacting with them, for consumers value not having to repeat information across communication channels.
- Fifty-nine percent of consumers report that they've had an exceptional customer experience that made them want to tell family or friends, typically describing the agent as friendly, knowledgeable, quick, and effective in response to their issue.
- While 52 percent of those polled have used or would use Facebook to interact with a company for customer service, only 27 percent of consumers have actually shared a customer service or support experience on a social networking site. Of those 27 percent, 73 percent indicated sharing their experience on their personal Facebook wall.
- Professionals value a timely response most in a service or support interaction with their customers, with the majority reporting that their organization typically uses a phone to interact with their customers, followed by email and Web chat.
- While the majority of professionals reported live agents as their company's preferred method for customer interactions, 73 percent of professionals in Germany believe email is the most valuable communication method, followed by phone (71 percent).
- The vast majority of responding professionals indicated wait times should be less than 3 minutes (78%). As with phone, the majority (67%) feels less than 3 minutes is the appropriate time when the customer uses web chat.
- Of those professionals who indicated that their company had tested social media as an interaction channel, 94 percent mentioned Facebook, while 64 percent used Twitter.
- Though 87 percent of professionals claim that their organization is currently satisfied with their communication software and services, only 36 percent of have had an exceptional experience with a company that provides such software and services.
Key takeaway: Regardless of industry, the majority of consumers expect good service as part of doing business with any given company, and therefore are not willing to pay an additional fee to receive a higher level of service from the business or service provider in question. Yet, while 63 percent of companies don't believe an added service fee would be beneficial to their customers and organization, 53 percent of professionals say their company allows customers to pay a fee for higher-level service. Brands must recognize that, when consumers pay for goods or services, the commitment doesn't stop there. Instead, the purchase itself is merely another stepping-stone along the customer journey. These businesses must acknowledge that superior service and consistent support are the building blocks of trust and loyalty, which are essential when encouraging repeat patronage and brand advocacy. They must be sure to maintain the same level of service that hooked the customer initially and allow these actions to become the backbone of their evolving reputation.