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Debunking Customer Service Myths

In a time of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” it’s important to have actual quantitative data to back up assertions and separate myth from reality. Conducting studies and surveys helps to shed the light on what’s really going on and to corroborate ideas with statistical data.
We hear a lot of claims about customer service and customer preferences, especially when it comes to millennials, but what’s real and what are assumptions?
Following up on its initial study a year ago, cloud contact center provider Five9 commissioned Zogby Analytics to conduct an online survey to help businesses understand how consumers really feel about customer service. Zogby surveyed more than 1,000 consumers across all key demographics and age groups to identify preferences and expectations.
The survey provided some surprising and not-so-surprising results. In a recent webinar, Five9’s Michael Rose, director of brand and corporate communications, and I dissected some of the findings as we put to rest several customer service myths.
Myth 1: The Voice Call Is Dead
Contrary to what many industry pundits have predicted, the phone call isn’t dead but rather alive and well, with usage across all age groups. The phone call remains the preferred communications method for customer service issues, with 49% of survey respondents preferring to interact with a company over the phone when they need customer service.
What was most surprising is that millennials also prefer to use the phone for customer service issues. This is contrary to pundit proclamations that millennials, as well as Gen Zers, never use their phones to make calls.
For 18-to 24-year-old respondents, the survey found that phone calls and email tied as the preferred way of interacting with a company for customer service. For those aged 25 to 34, preference for using the phone was 19% greater than the second most preferred channel, email. Surprisingly, chat came in as a distant third for both groups. Only 15% of thse 18 to 24 years old choose chat, compared with 36% for both phone calls and email.
Compared with last year’s findings, email increased as a preferred channel, while chat decreased. The use of social media also decreased this year, even among the younger age groups. Overall, only 2% of the respondents prefer using social media. My theory about why social media use is so low is that there’s a catch-22 when it comes to social. Customers don’t use it because they don’t realize it’s an option, and companies aren’t offering it because people aren’t using it.
Myth 2: Customers Prefer Anonymity
There’s a big trade-off between keeping your privacy or anonymity and getting more personalized customer service. Many organizations assume that consumers prefer to be anonymous when calling a company, but that’s not the case.
While there’s a need for privacy and security, especially when dealing with financial or medical issues, the survey found that 74% of consumers are at least somewhat comfortable with agents using their purchase history when providing customer service. A much greater number (80%) are very or somewhat comfortable with this approach if it results in a high level of customer service.
Consumers prefer when a business knows something about them and their history with the company, and get frustrated with agents who don’t have this information. For example, the survey found that 49% of respondents are unlikely to continue doing business with a company if they have to identify themselves or explain their issue every time they contact it. By having access to screen pops with information about the customer’s past purchase history or customer service interactions, agents have a better understanding of the customer’s relationship with the company and can provide better and faster service and issue resolution. And that brings us to the third myth…
Myth 3: Speed Is Important
We all assume that speed is key and that customers want quick answers. Of course, customers don’t want to spend time on hold waiting for an agent. However, 44% of the survey respondents are willing to spend more time with an agent if the interaction results in getting the right answer or information they need.
For consumers, good customer service isn’t just about speed, but about getting the information needed or the issue resolved and getting the right results.
Organizations should spend less time focusing on reducing handle time or talk time and focus more on providing agents with the tools they need to help them better solve issues and provide the right information. These tools include CRM integration and providing customer history, FAQs, agent dashboards, effective agent scripting, relevant agent training and empowerment, and artificial intelligence tools that make easy work of accessing the right information.
The Right Tools

The key to a good customer care and engagement is simple -- give customers the information they need, whether through self-service or in a live interaction, and answer their questions effectively, and give agents the tools they need to provide a positive customer experience.

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BCStrategies is an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.