It’s no secret that customer service is a core competency every business needs to succeed. After all, as Microsoft reported in 2017, 96% of consumers say that customer service is an important factor in their decision to buy, and stay loyal to a brand. But as the digital age expands, customer service is no longer only about face-to-face conversations in retail stores. Phone and chat conversations now make up a significant portion of the customer service experience, which means businesses need to control their customer experience across all communication types.
To better help their clients understand how customer service is evolving across mediums, AI customer service platform Netomi asked more than 700 US consumers for their opinions on customer service and its impact on loyalty and buying decisions.
The results? Customer service is more important than ever, but consumer priorities have shown a marked shift from personalized service to efficiency and speed.
Here are a few top insights from the study that can help you evaluate the state of customer service in your own brand as we enter 2020.
Customer Service is Fundamental for Sales
Across the board, more than 82% of responses to the Netomi survey said that customer service was either “extremely” or “very” important. 78% of respondents said that customer service was essential to winning their loyalty to a brand. Conversely, only 1% of respondents said that customer service wasn’t important to them.
When it came to sales decisions, 71% of consumers reported that they stopped buying from at least 1 company in the past year due to poor customer service. As we know via research from Kolsky, the cost of attracting a new customer is 6-7 times higher than the cost of retaining a customer, compounding the expense of these losses. Not only does excellence in customer service result in higher immediate sales; it also has significant impacts on customer lifetime values and marketing spend required to meet revenue goals.
Speed Outweighs Personalized Service
You may have heard the statistic that the human attention span is lower than ever, owing in part to the overstimulation of the internet. While people continue to contend whether we really can pay attention anymore, one thing is for sure: speed matters when it comes to customer service.
In years past, waiting on hold for hours was simply the status quo when it came to solving consumer issues. But today, in an age when we can get the latest news, weather, and answers to all our questions in an instant, there’s no room for lengthy wait times. Netomi’s research confirmed the popular belief that people want everything fast. According to the survey, 61% of respondents reported that a quick resolution was key in excellent customer service.
In fact, speed is so important that is now outstrips the value of personalization in the customer experience. Netomi reports that 47% of consumers now expect fast and convenient support, while less than a quarter find it more important to received personalized service.
Customer Service is Becoming Proactive
Traditional customer service is reactionary: the customer comes in with a problem, and the business is responsible for fixing the issue. Today, customers expect companies to anticipate potential issues and stay ahead of them. Already, 27% of consumers report that they expect proactivity from their favorite brands, whether it’s sending notices about upgrades, reminders for maintenance, or other customer offerings that mitigate issues before they happen. As we enter 2020, we expect those numbers to rise.
Businesses Aren’t Keeping Up
Unfortunately, Netomi’s research confirmed industry fears that most companies aren’t meeting consumer expectations. Among consumers, more than 50% feel that customer service has stagnated, and is no better than yesterday. And while 20% feel that customer service has improved slightly, 23% feel that the state of customer service is worse this year than last.
Additionally, customers are still facing significant issues when it comes to the speed and convenience of customer service today. Only 10% of respondents to Netomi’s survey felt that today’s customer service options are convenient, while 46% of consumers said that today’s customer service is still frustrating or slow. Major frustrations to consumers including overall response time (44%) and brands’ inability to resolve issues on first contact (60%).
Now, some of this might be due to the rapid escalation of consumer expectations themselves. 65% of surveyed consumers reported having higher expectations for customer service today than they did just 3-5 years ago. However, if businesses want to retain their customers – and win new ones- they need to catch up.
What You Can Do
The statistics might be alarming at first, but upon closer inspection, they offer a unique opportunity for innovative companies to beat out the competition. By putting customer service at the forefront of your brand and leveraging new technologies in artificial intelligence, ticket tracking, and analytics platforms, you can expedite issues and meet consumer expectations, thereby increasing customer loyalty for years to come. Remember, customer service is no longer icing on the cake of the buying experience; it’s now an integral part of the process that cannot be ignored.