Benchmark Study: Good Service Turns Customers into Fans
For customers, good service is more important than great products or affordable prices – that is a conclusion of the latest study “Customer Service in the Digital Age.” It’s not the only interesting finding of the survey.
Which contact channels do customers prefer? What do they expect from customer service? The 2017 service benchmark, published by the business consultancy Pidas, focuses on these and other questions. The latest edition, created in cooperation with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, is by its own reports the most comprehensive study on the topic of customer service in German-speaking Europe: More than 3,500 end customers were surveyed on their service experiences and needs in spring 2017, while 100 industry and company representatives provided additional views.
The study shines a light on customer service from the perspective of three stakeholders: customers, business, and IT. Six industries stand in the foreground: property and life insurers, banks, telecommunications companies, healthcare suppliers, energy service providers, and public bodies.
The five central statements
The survey results have been divided into five subject areas that are crucial for customer service in the digital age.
From companies’ perspective, digital contact channels such as live chats, video calls, and messaging services will become more and more important in the future. Nevertheless, these new media aren’t sure-fire successes, as the surveyed customers currently prefer classic, tried-and-tested contact channels: 60 percent of them still can’t picture themselves interacting with a digital contact person. Thus, companies have to define and implement a clear channel strategy to lead their customers to these new channels. Exceptions to this are young customers who, practically without exception, use new media and avoid classic channels. In any case, it’s imperative to make the added value of new channels clear, and offer positive service experiences.
2. Service design
Depending on the type of request, customers prefer different contact channels. When it comes to a consultation, a complaint, or the search for help – that is, with demanding needs or when emotions are in play – most customers prefer a personal channel. The acceptance of digital communication partners is high primarily when contact with the company takes place over a digital channel, and is a matter of simple questions like a booking or administrative requests. In this case, companies should firstly stronger automate channels like e-mail, chat, and messengers, using RPA (robot process automation) technologies for example, before they offer additional, complex, and expensive solutions like voice dialogue systems (IVR: Interactive Voice Response). The user also associates personal support with the telephone channel, so service disappointment is preprogrammed in the case of an IVR.
3. Service automation
The majority of the surveyed companies are aware of the opportunities they offer through the automatic processing of customer requests, and the role technologies such as the processing of natural language and artificial intelligence play. But less than half of the companies gather customer concerns that arrive via various channels in one central place – a basic prerequisite for service automation. In more than 60 percent of cases customer concerns are manually forwarded to the responsible sites, and sometimes even in the form of different media. This could be the reason why the rate of customer concerns resolved completely automatically lies below five percent in over two thirds of the surveyed companies – if it’s measured at all. Only the minority of companies can also use options like software-supported retrieval of relevant information, or the automatic display of cross- and upselling suggestions.
About 21 percent of customers surveyed described themselves as fans of a company. The main reason for 61 percent of them is customer service. Reasons named for this enthusiasm are products and services (56 percent) and uncomplicated interaction (53 percent). Price, by contrast, plays a much lower role (21 percent). Issues that are assessed very differently by companies: half of them assume that more than 50 percent of their customers are fans at one given time. Companies also overestimate the importance of their products and services and underestimate, for example, how important uncomplicated interactions with customers are for service concerns. Because products and services are becoming more replaceable, enthusiastic and loyal customers are always more important. They have a higher customer value than any other customer. The more of them a company has, the greater its commercial success.
5. Service transformation
Companies are aware that digitization of the service organization is a big, multilayered task, both organizationally and technically. They see the biggest challenges in the compatibility of automation and personal customer support, in the compatibility of various technical systems, in establishing the fitting know-how in employees, and in the increasing speed and complexity of developments. There’s also a need for optimization in the cooperation between IT and other divisions: while most IT representatives in companies perceive the cooperation with business managers as good to very good, nearly 40 percent of the surveyed business representatives rate the cooperation with IT as poor to very poor. An intensive exchange between the two divisions, however, represents a basic prerequisite for a successful service transformation, as well as the clarification of responsibilities. Close to 40 percent of company representatives see the responsibility for driving forward digitization initiatives with upper management – but these responsibilities are not clearly defined in roughly every fifth surveyed company.
“Companies still have some work ahead of them when it comes to digitizing customer service. It’s a demanding task that requires leadership and clear priorities,” says Pidas CEO Frédéric Monard. But these efforts will be worth it, as the results are outstanding customer experiences and significant efficiency benefits.
The latest service benchmark is available at:
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.
Image: tashatuvango – Fotolia/Adobe Stock