Businesses think every one of their customer service channels is easier to use than their customers do, according to customer experience data from The Northridge Group's 'State of Customer Service Experience 2018' report, which provides sobering reality check for businesses that think they're providing a great customer experience. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

For example, 75% of business leaders think that reaching their company by phone is "very easy" or "easy", while only 48% of customers experience that. Similarly, 56% of business leaders think social media is a "very easy" or "easy" way to reach their company while only 36% of consumers report the same.

For the first time since the report's debut in 2015, the latest Northridge Group State of Customer Experience report includes survey responses from both consumers and business leaders. The combined 2018 study of more than 1,000 U.S. respondents highlights a significant discrepancy between how business leaders and consumers perceive the customer experience associated with contacting customer service - leaving consumers dissatisfied and businesses vulnerable to customer churn and negative financial impacts.

"Customer experience drives customer loyalty," says Daren Moore, President of The Northridge Group. "Customers create their impression of a company through a combination of all the contacts they make and experiences they have across channels to resolve their issues. Companies that learn to deliver a seamless and personalized experience across all channels will have a true competitive advantage."

The voice of the customer is clear
Customers report that their experience is poor across all customer service channels and that they are frustrated with the lack of easy-to-use, self-service options. For example:

  • 69% of customers have difficulty navigating automated systems
  • 65% of customers have trouble using websites
  • Fewer than 50% of customers find any channel easy to use
  • 62% of consumers reported needing to make multiple contacts to resolve their most recent customer service need.
  • Only 46% of consumers reported resolution of their customer service need within an hour.
  • Almost one in ten customers indicated their problem was never resolved.

The survey data indicates that while phone remains the most commonly used channel, its effectiveness is declining. "As website usability improves and other digital channels become more effective, consumers' need for speed, accessibility and ease of use will be met through other channels. This will drive down call volumes, decrease the overall cost to serve, and improve the customer experience," according to Pam Plyler, Executive Practice Lead of Customer Experience at The Northridge Group.

Customers set CX priorities
According to the survey, while self-service digital channels have some of the greatest potential to address the consumer desire for speed and effortless experience, those channels are currently missing the mark. Websites and mobile apps are digital channels that can provide 24/7, "no wait" customer service options. But to gain greater customer acceptance, these self-serve alternatives must be easy to use and effective in enabling consumers to resolve their issues. As demand grows for seamless self-serve options businesses would be wise to invest in improving self-serve digital channels.

Consumer feedback indicates that businesses should prioritize their investments to improve the customer experience. The top investment priorities that consumers recommend businesses make are:

  • Reduction of wait times for customer service calls
  • Better training for customer service reps
  • Making customer service available 24/7
  • Improvement of telephone menus to make it easier to get to the right customer service rep faster