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Today's consumers are unforgiving when it comes to poor customer experience. In fact, 72% of consumers report they are likely to switch to a competitive brand after just one bad experience. This article is copyright 2020 The Best Customer Guide.

According to The Northridge Group's State of Customer Service Experience 2019 report, consumers want an effortless path to the resolution of their product and service issues, yet more than one-third of consumers still find it difficult to even establish contact with the company in question. Consumers believe they are having to work too hard to resolve their issues. For example:

  • 60% experience difficulty navigating phone systems equipped with Interactive Voice Response
  • 68% experience a long wait time to reach an agent
  • 64% experience difficulty using websites
  • 57% frequently have to repeat themselves to the customer service agent
  • 30% frequently speak with an agent who isn't friendly or polite

The reality is that just 53% of consumers report being able to resolve their issues the first time they contact a company. According to Pam Plyler, Executive Practice Lead of Customer Experience at The Northridge Group, "Best practice is 85%+, so there is still much room for improvement."

What Gets Measured, Gets Done
The report suggests that businesses are overly optimistic about the experience they are delivering, possibly because they aren't adequately measuring customer effort. Feedback from business leaders indicates that, when measuring customer service effectiveness, only 25% of businesses even measure the customer effort required for issue resolution despite the fact that advanced data analytics now makes it easy and efficient to measure customer effort compared to traditional surveys.

"If you're not measuring it, you can't manage it," says Daren Moore, President of The Northridge Group. "The measurement of customer effort is a crucial investment that promotes customer loyalty and prevents backlash."

An astounding 86% of consumers report they tell others about bad experiences they have with companies and negative social media posts can quickly spiral out of control, causing permanent damage to a brand.

For Complex Issues, Phone is Still King
Real-time talk with a customer service rep still ranks at the top, according to the survey. Phone remains the fastest, easiest, and most preferred customer service channel. While digital channels made gains in 2019, preference for email has decreased during the same timeframe.

"Phone and online chat are perceived to provide a one-on-one service experience," says Bryan Gillis, Executive Practice Lead, Quality Solutions & Customer Analytics at The Northridge Group. "Consumers have the highest expectations for resolution and speed of response from live-assisted channels. Simple issues are often resolved on company websites but more complex situations require the human touch." Given that these interactions are more complex, it is critical that the level of quality, engagement, and personalization provided meets or exceeds the customers' expectations.

Businesses Are Grading Themselves Too High
The Northridge Group has published this report annually since 2015 and began including survey responses from business leaders in 2018. The combined 2019 study of more than 1,000 US consumers and more than 300 business leaders uncovered a significant discrepancy between how business leaders and consumers view investment priorities. While businesses are prioritizing investments that differentiate their own brands, consumers would prefer that they focus on the basics including:

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