A recent survey of 5000 respondents, including 100 businesses and 500 consumers from A/NZ, has found there's a wide disconnect between what we expect from customer service and what businesses deliver. Businesses greatly over-estimate their performance and customers still prefer traditional shopping channels although their service expectations aren't being consistently met.
The survey was conducted by market research firm Vanson Bourne, on behalf of LogMeIn. It found that consumers still rely on classic customer service channels even though the average time to resolution was 11 hours, or three times longer than consumers cited as being acceptable. Both business and consumer respondents agree that telephone and email are among the most common channels used to conduct business but they also tend to produce the slowest time to resolution.
Many businesses are investing in new technologies such as chatbots and looking at how they can employ AI and machine learning into their customer service workflows. Almost two-thirds of business are making budget allocations to new solutions specifically designed for customer engagement. 35% of businesses have already invested in emerging technologies like AI, with more than half planning to invest.
That investment correlates with customer demands as almost four of every five consumers in the A/NZ regions saying brands should be using tech such as chatbots and AI to reduce the time required to solve a customer enquiry.
The most interesting finding from the survey was that companies are setting the bar for “good” service too low. More than four in every five consumers surveyed saying that they had at least one issue while interacting with a brand and over a third of consumers were not impressed with their customer journey citing an average or poor experience.
In contrast, four in five businesses believe their customers would give them a favourable review despite also reporting that fewer than half of customer queries are resolved during the first interaction.
And while retail, travel and hospitality industries lead on good customer experience, the data suggests they are the best of the worst rather than the best of the best. Just 58% of consumers rate their experience highly in each of these sectors. Telcos were given the lowest grades with only 41% of consumers giving them a favourable score.
The investment in automation, through the use of AI and machine learning, may sound like bad news for call centre staff and other front-line customer service personnel. Almost two-thirds of the companies surveyed said that if chatbots could reduce inquiries into call centres, they would train agents to handle different or additional tasks.
While the survey could be interpreted as pointing to a disconnect, I suspect it's more like a lag. Customers can access almost any TV show or movies they want whenever they want and wherever they are. Mobile devices and apps provide easy access to a global marketplace. But moving corporate systems to accomodate those expectations, particularly for legacy businesses, takes significant investment and time.
The question then becomes whether businesses can ever catch up with customer expectations or whether we, as consumers, expect too much.