Today's consumers are shopping online more now than ever but find the overall service experience inadequate, according to The Northridge Group's 'State of Customer Service Experience 2020' report, which shows that as a result of COVID-19 some 68% of consumers have increased their online shopping - and they plan to continue at this increased rate post-pandemic. This article is copyright 2021 The Best Customer Guide.

However, consumers also said they are increasingly frustrated at the level of effort required to reach companies to get the help they need. The study found that consumers are having to work too hard to resolve their issues, with 73% experiencing long wait times to reach a live agent, 69% reporting difficulty finding answers on the company's website and 60% having to repeat information over and over again.

"As the number of consumers doing business online increases, so too, does the need for self-service options that deliver fast and easy ways to contact brands," said Pam Plyler, Executive Practice Lead, Customer Experience and Contact Center Management for The Northridge Group. "With only 42% of consumers reporting first contact resolution, brands are clearly missing the mark."

While business leaders report investing in top service improvements, like reducing wait times, only 29% of businesses surveyed currently measure customer effort.

"If you don't measure it, you can't improve it. Implementing the right customer service effectiveness metrics, including first contact resolution and customer effort, can increase brand loyalty, streamline processes and reduce costs," said Plyler.

As the data showed, the stakes are high. Despite the global pandemic, consumers continue to be unforgiving when it comes to poor customer experience. An alarming 73% of consumers report they are likely to switch to a competitive brand after just one negative experience.

Demand for Digital Service is rising
According to the 2020 Northridge Group survey, the phone remains consumers' preferred contact channel because it is currently the most effective and fastest channel for issue resolution. However, over the past five years, consumers' preference for phone and email has declined while their preference for digital channels has increased.

"As businesses invest in creating a seamless and integrated experience across channels, consumers' preference for and use of digital channels is expected to accelerate given the impacts of COVID-19," says Bryan Gillis, Executive Practice Lead, Quality Solutions & Customer Analytics at The Northridge Group. "The speed and accessibility of online chat, for example, offers the ability to shift more transactional inquiries to channels that provide businesses with higher productivity and a lower cost to serve."

Fast, Easy Service Must Become a Priority
The Northridge Group has published the report annually since 2015 and began including survey responses from business leaders in 2018. The combined 2020 study of more than 1,000 US consumers and more than 250 business leaders continues to shed light on the discrepancy between how business leaders and consumers view investment priorities.

While businesses continue to prioritize investments in channel consistency, consumers would prefer they focus on fast and easy service including:

  • Increasing speed of issue resolution
  • Improving accessibility of service
  • Developing knowledgeable service teams