While consumers have been happy to replace the traditional with the digital in so many aspects of their lives, the e-love doesn’t seem to extend to their interactions with companies. A recent study found that the good old-fashioned telephone often trumps the Web and social media as the most satisfying way to talk to firms.
The Touchpoint Study, from CX Act Inc. (formerly TARP Worldwide), a Rosslyn, Va., customer experience improvement firm, aimed to shed light on which contact levers are most important to customers now and in the future, as well as the current state of contact-handling by interaction method and by industry.
With the proliferation of customer contact channels and the rise of digital and social media touchpoints in a Web 2.0 ecosystem, customer experience effectiveness and efficiency is evolving rapidly and becoming a critical focal point for brands, with the potential to either positively or negatively impact bottom-line results and marketing ROI.
The national study of over 3,000 respondents quantifies the result of contact handling on loyalty and word-of-mouth – both online and offline. “In today’s marketplace, product differentiation is no longer enough to gain an edge and stand above the crowd,” said Crystal Collier, CEO, CX Act, in a press release. “The real ability to grow market share comes from differentiating the customer experience. To win on the CX margin, brands must understand the preferred method of contact from their customer base and seek out opportunities to constantly improve those channels.”
Among the key takeaways:
Effective contact-handling impacts the bottom line. Customers satisfied with how their contact was handled are more likely to intend to remain a customer than those who were dissatisfied with contact-handling, by a ratio of 74 percent to 17 percent.
Despite digital growth, customers still prefer the personal touch. Contacting via phone is considered the most effective channel for resolving issues, with little difference by industry: 52 percent reach out by phone, versus 23 percent by e-mail, 17 percent via in-person contact and only 1 percent via social media or mobile app.
Asking questions dominates the customer reach-out. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents contacted a brand simply to ask a question, more than any other reason. And there is still a strong disposition to use customer contacts to complain rather than compliment, by a ratio of 2:1. Interestingly, more consumers still send a letter or a fax rather than post on a company’s social media site or use a mobile app.
Customers are contacting about bills and financial issues. Five of the top-six most contacted industries are either in the financial industry or have a large percentage of their contacts related to billing.
Only half are satisfied; personal touch prevails. Only half of surveyed customers are very satisfied with how their complaint/question was handled in their first interaction; satisfaction is highest for those who contact in-person and lowest if done via social media.
Harsh penalties for brands who fail “first-contact” test. Customer satisfaction scores drop by over 50 percentage points among those who have to contact multiple times to address or resolve an issue or question.
One-in-five shares via social media. Among those who share their experience via social media, Facebook dominates over Twitter by a 4:1 ratio – but Twitter followers are more engaged.
Banks rise to the top on contact-handling. Banks are one of the most frequently contacted industries and also boast the highest industry first-contact resolution and satisfaction rate.
“Consumers in 2014 have so many more ways to reach a company than they did just a few years ago,” said Jim Stone, chief customer officer, CX Act. “Yet when we have a problem or question, the vast majority still prefer the personal touch of a phone call. Social media in customer service is on the front burner and can’t be ignored but brands seeking to excel at customer service need to be certain their call center talent understand the customers’ needs and are prepared to respond appropriately. Failing to properly navigate the new terrain of customer service touchpoints can adversely impact the bottom line, while getting it right can drive profits and deepen brand loyalty.”
A summary of the study can be found here (free; registration required).
The CX Act Touchpoint Study was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2013 through interviews with 3,000 consumers in a nationally representative online panel. The survey queried consumers who had a customer contact experience in the prior 90 days. The survey sought customer feedback involving touchpoint satisfaction and impact of contact handling on loyalty across 16 different industries: investment; auto, home or life insurance; banks; medical insurance; automotive services; credit card issuers; wireless provider; airline; hospital; hotel; consumer electronic; TV, cable or Internet provider; retailer; supermarket; restaurant; and consumer packaged goods.