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Phone Is King for Customer Experience

Do you know which channels your customers prefer when it comes to customer service? What about your millennial customers? What does it take to keep a customer loyal -- or what will cause customers to move to your competitors?

To answer some of these questions, Five9 and Zogby Analytics surveyed 1,138 U.S.-based consumers to better understand how they view customer service and how it impacts their behavior and purchasing decisions. Using this data, Five9 introduced its annual "Customer Service Index" to track how consumers view customer service and engagement, what platforms they prefer, and how to keep them as long-term customers. The first part of the index focuses on business decision makers and highlights the views of customer service and engagement from the executive suite, while the second part of the index is all about consumer expectations of customer service and engagement.

Looking at the consumer expectations part of the report, Five9 found that today's digital consumers have strong feelings about what they want and expect, and that customer loyalty is highly correlated to customer experiences. The takeaway for businesses is that they need to provide exceptional customer service experiences. Some of the results are somewhat obvious to those of us who've been in the customer service space, but key points do bear repeating as businesses try to grapple with their digital transformation projects.

In the world of digital transformation, organizations are using more and more digital tools to improve their business processes. The contact center, as the front door to customers, should be starting point for deploying digital tools and technologies. However, deploying technology for technology's sake won't provide the desired results. Understanding consumer preferences, as well as industry best practices, will help guide business decisions when it comes to customer support and the contact center.

Survey Key Findings

Surveying all types of consumers, from all age groups, Five9 and Zogby asked participants their views about customer service and loyalty factors, including:

  • Communication channels preferences for customer support
  • The impact of customer service on loyalty
  • Perceptions of product and service quality and willingness to do business
  • What makes a good customer experience

When asked about the top influencers impacting the decision on whether to do business with a company, survey participants indicated they are most influenced by pricing, customer service, and product quality. In fact, virtually all survey respondents indicated that a positive customer service experience is at least somewhat likely to influence their decision to do business with a company. Alternatively, fewer than 20% of respondents said they'd do business with a company that provided a negative customer service experience. The impact of a negative customer experience varies based on the type of business or industry. For example, the survey found that Internet and phone service providers are most vulnerable to poor customer service, while healthcare providers are less vulnerable.

As I'll be discussing in a webinar this week, while the survey delved into a number of issues, I found these three key findings most intriguing:

  1. The phone is still king -- for all types of consumers
  2. The majority of consumers expect interaction resolution within 30 minutes or less
  3. Consumers are comfortable with companies using past purchase history if doing so ensures a better customer experience

Despite the predictions that the phone is dead, especially for millennials, the survey found that 54% of respondents prefer to interact with a company over the phone when they need customer service. What's really interesting is that this is true regardless of age.

The other preferred interaction methods are email and online chat, with 21% of respondents noting that they want to interact with a company via online chat or social. The use of social and chat has been increasing over the past couple years, and in all age groups, indicating that B2C businesses should strongly consider providing support through chat if they're not already doing so.

Not surprisingly, today's digital consumers have high expectations when it comes to speed of issue resolution. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of respondents expect their customer service issues to be resolved in 15 minutes or less.

With the ability to access CRM and other data providing insights about customer purchase history, companies can provide more personalized experiences. The survey found that about two-thirds of respondents are at least somewhat comfortable with a company using their past purchase history when providing customer service, and even more are comfortable with this approach if it actually results in a high level of customer service.

Here are some other interesting survey results:

  • When it comes to impression of a company based on customer service and a consumer's desire to do business with a company, price is still the primary deciding factor, as 26% agree with the view, "Even with bad customer service, as long as the product works and it's the cheapest available they get my business."
  • When asked, "How likely are you do to business with a company if you have a poor customer service experience?" 45% said they were very unlikely, 31% were somewhat unlikely, with only 17% being somewhat or very likely to continue doing business with a firm based on poor customer service.

    Nearly 70% of respondents said if resolving an issue takes a lot of effort then they're unlikely to do business with that company again.

Today's digital consumers are savvier than ever, with high expectations for customer care. By understanding consumers' prefeences and expectations, businesses can use current technologies to better serve customers and meet these changing expectations.