New Customer Service Study Finds Personal Touch of Voice Still Matters Most
As countless studies have confirmed, improving the customer experience is a top priority of C-levels globally. In fact, the fastest growing C-level positions for the last few years have been ones that are variations on “Chief Customer Experience Officer” (CCEO).
The challenge for those with the mandate to improve/enhance customer experiences is where to concentrate their efforts. Indeed, the growth of omni-channel touchpoints driven by the explosion of social media, mobility, the cloud and video, have made decisions about where and what to spend on resources for optimizing the differentiated value of compelling customer experiences a hot topic.
Which channels are the most effective for attracting customers, engendering loyalty, obtaining permission to up-sell and those that can turn customers into brand evangelists are all top of mind. And, the discussion involves more than just marketing folks. It must include all enterprise stakeholders involved in streamlining business processes and sharing Big Data analytics aimed at increasing responsiveness to best leverage customer interactions.
With this as context, anyone in the customer experience business should be interested in the new study by customer interaction solutions provider CX Act (formerly TARP Worldwide). Entitled simply the CXAct Touchpoint Study, it reveals as it touts, “Instructive and eye-opening insights into the impact of customer contact behavior, handling, and word-of-mouth on brands and the bottom-line in the 2014 marketplace.”
Meeting customer expectations when they choose to interact
Based on interviews with over 3,000 respondents, the study highlights the contact levers most important to customers both now and going forward. In addition it illuminates the current state of contact handling by interaction method and by industry, and quantifies the result of contact handling on loyalty and word-of-mouth, online and offline.
There is a lot to digest from the findings which include:
- Effective Contact Handling Impacts the Bottom Line: Customers satisfied with how their contact was handled are more likely to intend to remain a customer than those who were dissatisfied with contact handling, by a ratio of 74 percent to 17 percent.
- Despite Digital Growth, Customers Still Prefer the Personal Touch: Contacting via phone is considered the most effective channel for resolving issues, with little difference by industry: 52 percent dial by phone, versus 23 percent by e-mail, 17 percent via in-person contact, and only 1 percent via social media or mobile app.
- Asking Questions Dominates the Customer Reach-Out: 75 percent of survey respondents contacted a brand simply to ask a question, more than any other reason. And there is still a strong disposition to use customer contacts to complain rather than compliment – by a ratio of 2:1. Interestingly, more consumers still send a letter or a fax rather than post on a company’s social media site or use a mobile app.
- Customers Contacting about Bills and Financial Issues: Five of the top six most contacted industries are either in the financial industry, or have a large percentage of their contacts related to billing.
- Only Half are Satisfied, Personal Touch Prevails: Only half of surveyed customers are very satisfied with how their complaint/question was handled in their first interaction; satisfaction is highest for those who contact in-person and lowest if done via social media.
- Harsh Penalties for Brands Who Fail “First-Contact” Test: Customer satisfaction scores drop by over 50 percentage points among those who have to contact multiple times to address or resolve an issue or question.
- One in Five Shares via Social Media: Among those who share their experience via social media, Facebook (News - Alert) dominates over Twitter by a 4:1 ratio - but Twitter followers are more engaged.
- Banks Rise to the Top on Contact Handling: Banks are one of the most frequently contacted industries, and also boast the highest industry first-contact resolution and satisfaction rate.
In commenting on the results, Crystal Collier, CEO, CX Act said, “In todays marketplace, product differentiation is no longer enough to gain an edge and stand above the crowd…The real ability to grow market share comes from differentiating the customer experience. To win on the CX margin, brands must understand the preferred method of contact from their customer base and seek out opportunities to constantly improve those channels. This new study provides a first glimpse at analyzing and understanding preferred methods of contact and associated methods of customer satisfaction and loyalty – all critical bottom-line drivers.”
One of the more interesting charts from the survey was one that compared tact methods vs. contact reasons.
The bottom line is people still want to talk to somebody. However, it is not just anybody, but rather somebody who they can get to quickly and has the ability to answer their question/resolve their issue the first time and fast.
“Consumers in 2014 have so many more ways to reach a company than they did just a few years ago,” said Dr. Jim Stone, Chief Customer Officer, CX Act. “Yet, when we have a problem or question, the vast majority still prefer the personal touch of a phone call. Social media in customer service is on the front burner and can’t be ignored, but brands seeking to excel at customer service need to be certain their call center talent understand the customers’ needs and are prepared to respond appropriately. Failing to properly navigate the new terrain of customer service touchpoints can adversely impact the bottom-line, while getting it right can drive profits and deepen brand loyalty.”
In short, as the study details, while investing in multiple touchpoint technology is important, investing in the people who interact with customers for now, and the foreseeable future, is likely the best way to create brand loyalty and to maximize the rewards of improving customer experiences. The reason is the voice of the customer wants their voice to be heard.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker