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How your customers really feel about customer service

Digital leads the way! That’s the main takeaway from the latest survey in international consulting behemoth PwC’s ongoing Consumer Intelligence series. The project, which quizzed more than 1,000 respondents, aims to uncover the truth about how consumers feel about the various channels available to them when accessing customer service.

When it comes to customer service, companies have been slow to keep up with the changing preferences of today’s consumers. The near-ubiquity of the internet throughout the West has meant that some 60% of people in the US have not just one but a selection of online channels in their pockets or handbags, almost 24 hours a day (and 80% even sleep with their phones switched on).

Sadly, far too many businesses have chosen to ignore reality in favour of what suits their old-fashioned company structure and working methods, and tend to think of customer service as a ‘damage control’ option rather than what it has become: something that the average respondent has contacted more than twice in the past 6-9 months.

Pay to call you? Not likely!

Whoever came up with the idea that customers should pay to get assistance must have considered himself a sheer genius. “Not only will we make money to cover our customer service costs, but it actually provides us with an incentive to do things badly! Win-win!”

Sorry – it was fun while it lasted, but the party’s over. The vast majority of respondents don’t want to pay for the ‘privilege’ of using their preferred contact method, regardless of what it is. And that goes for the channels they’re highly satisfied with too.

Unhappy customers still spread the word

While 41% of respondents are happy to use online chat to get in touch, it’s not their favourite digital channel. That honour goes to email, with 55% of those surveyed being keen on the medium. And it seems that the old cliché still holds true: an unhappy customer tells far more people about their experience than a happy one does. “Disgruntled customers will air their grievances on more venues (2.1) than those who had a good encounter (1.7).”

In other words: you have more to lose by giving poor service than you stand to gain by providing good service. That, though, is as it should be. You want your customers to be able to take your great service for granted, right?

Don’t just be fast, be effective

Time and again, customers share the same concerns about customer service levels, which makes us wonder why so many businesses still aren’t getting the message. A hefty 66% of respondents said that they were somewhat to very dissatisfied with digital customer service channels.

For 41% of these, satisfaction would be increased if the company would simply fix the customer’s problem. Yes, you read that right – customers simply want you to help them. They want to deal with reps who show more concern about their specific problem and are more knowledgeable about the issues raised. The fastest response times in the world won’t get you far if you’re still not addressing the reason the customer contacted you in the first place.

The results of the PwC survey shouldn’t be earth-shattering, yet it seems that they repeat a message that many businesses today just don’t want to hear. The world of customer service has changed, and it’s not going back. You need to be able to provide fast and – much more importantly – effective service to the people who essentially pay your wages.

The main takeaway for businesses could be summed up in just a single word: care. You’d better care about your customers, care about what they want and what they need from your business. And it seems that what they want, right now, is for you to solve their customer service problems. Do you care enough to do so?