Defining Great Customer Experiences

Defining Great Customer Experiences

By Jon Arnold June 4, 2013 2 Comments
Jon Arnold Image for Unified Communications Strategies
Defining Great Customer Experiences by Jon Arnold

It looks like hotels, online retailers, and banks offer the best customer service experience, according to a recent survey of consumers and customer care professionals in seven countries. And among the different features of mobile customer service applications, the most desirable functionality is one that allows a customer to get a scheduled callback. Also, among consumer respondents aged 65 years and older, email, instead of a live agent via phone, is the most preferred form of customer service interaction. 

The Indianapolis, Indiana-based Interactive Intelligence Group, Inc., a call center software and technology solutions provider, commissioned a survey from Actionable Research. And the findings of the Interactive Intelligence Customer Experience Research Study 2013 are particularly telling.

Background of the Survey

1,407 consumers and 453 IT professionals and customer care leaders across different industries in seven countries (Australia, Brazil, Germany, North America, South Africa, Sweden, and United Kingdom) were surveyed in the periods between February 28 and March 25, 2013.

In the last twelve months of the survey period, the polled consumers had engaged in an exchange (none of which was an in-person communication) with a business organization. The polled professionals, on the other hand, were those tasked in their respective industries to handle the technology behind providing a good customer service experience.

Preferred Technological Features for Customer Service Interaction

The findings of the consumer survey revealed that consumers aged between 18 and 64 years preferred to interact with a live agent via phone, while those aged 65 years and older favored email, followed closely by live agent via phone. Among the least preferable customer service interaction types include going through a self-service system using a smartphone or tablet and communicating via social media sites.

The most important feature of a customer service interaction is the ability to access historical information. According to the Interactive Intelligence consumer study, most customers would prefer that the account information and previous conversations are already available to an agent before the interaction.

When using a mobile device, the most desired functionality is one that enables the scheduling of a callback. In a mobile service interaction, the most frustrating things to a consumer include the inability to get a callback and having to leave the mobile application in order to dial the number for customer service.

How Consumers Characterize Good Customer Service

Most of the polled customers indicate that a knowledgeable agent and a timely response constitute a great service experience. Compared to having an expert agent and getting a timely response to a query, efficiency is found to have been the least valued in a customer service interaction.

The difficulty of understanding the agent, followed by a condescending agent, is deemed the most frustrating part of a customer-agent exchange.

The ability to easily give feedback takes the lead among the most important technical services for consumers.

As for response times, most consumers prefer that phone interactions be answered within one to less than three minutes, while email and website exchanges are to be responded to by agents within 24 hours.

The Interactive Intelligence study found out that most consumers are not willing to pay for better customer service. Most of them believe that providing good customer service is part of doing business.

Social Media Behavior

59 percent of the polled consumers said that they had experienced great customer service worth sharing to family or friends. It was also discovered that customers tend to use social media to praise a good service experience rather than to complain about a negative one.

However, when they were asked if they shared a customer service experience on a social networking site, most consumers across all age brackets said no.

73 percent reported a preference to share the experience on their personal Facebook wall, while 40 percent wanted to do so on the company’s Facebook page.

What Contact Center Professionals Want

Polled contact center professionals put a premium on comprehensive reporting and analytics. And reinforcing the survey results on consumer preferences, IT professionals and customer care leaders said that their organizations’ most preferred method to interact with customers was a live agent via phone, followed by email.

The top two most valued customer services among contact center professionals are providing an easy way for customers to give feedback on a recently completed interaction and having agents gain access to customer information during transfers.

In social media, contact center professionals said that the most customer interactions being done by their organizations were through Facebook.

And while 77 percent of consumers who were surveyed said that they would refuse an offer of higher level of customer service for a fee, 53 percent of professionals said that their organizations allowed customers to pay for a higher level of service.

The Bottom Line

Consumers in many parts of the world seem to share similar views regarding the various components of a great customer service experience.

The basic contact center practice of having agents access account information and previous exchanges to avoid making the customer retell the issue is, indeed, a significant customer satisfaction marker. The same is true during transfers from one agent to another.

And regardless of geographical location, most consumers do favor phone interactions with less than three minutes of wait time. The survey results for contact center professionals echo similar sentiments. Phone via live agent is followed by email and web chat.

While hotels, online retailers, and banks are rated by consumers as the industries that provide the best customer service experience, technology firms, utilities, and government agencies are deemed the worst.

All in all, it looks like companies understand the driving factors of a great customer service experience. Consumers, on the other hand, make their preferences clear. And the more the two sides of the customer service equation match each other, the more the customer service experience can turn into a significant differentiator among competing businesses.


2 Responses to "Defining Great Customer Experiences" - Add Yours

Art Rosenberg 6/4/2013 9:10:35 AM

The survey was indeed informative, but since customer service is in a state of transition from legacy telephone access to mobile and online access, the results reflect more of yesterday than tomorrow's world.

We need to start differentiating customer "self-service" from "assisted service." As consumers increasingly have access to online applications via their mobile smartphones and tablets, they will increasingly be able to access information and perform simple transactions directly (by themselves) anywhere and anytime. However, there will always be situations where they need assistance because of a question or problem they run into. That's when they need live assistance.

Depending on the specific problem the customer has, as well as their environment at the moment (driving a car, sitting in a meeting, etc.,) the assistance needs vary widely from minutes to hours to even days. The fact that the customer is using a mobile smartphone or tablet also means that the assistance response no longer has to always be in real-time, but can be done whenever the appropriate resources are available within a reasonable time frame and with the mode that matches the customer's situation, not just because they initiated a traditional phone call.

As I discuss in my article on mobile self-service applications (see link below), self-service applications will start to become the starting point of most normal customer service interactions, with the option of flexible live assistance that will be more "contextual" and efficient than trying to service an unkown phone caller .
sylvia kay 6/4/2013 11:09:28 AM

Hi John,

Thank you for your interesting article.
I was wondering whether the survey found any differences between the different countries?
Are there cultural differences?

Thanks, Sylvia

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