Customer service is the black hole of marketing. Mess it up and you can lose customers without knowing why.
For every customer who complains to a medium-sized business, 26 leave and never say a word, according to a study by Lee Resources, as quoted by Groove.
So how do you prevent this churn? First, you need an effective communications system -- one that facilitates a fast response. But you also have to use the channels preferred by your customers.
If you believe an article out today in Phys.org, many firms are using “emotionless” chatboxes to handle customer issues.
What are chatboxes? They are “artificial intelligence programs, often deployed in apps or messaging services,” Phys.org writes.
But there’s one more tool: Email. And don’t forget the phone.
The telephone remains the most preferred method for customer communications, although that has fallen from 50% in 2015 to 43% this year, according to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers by Northridge Group.
Email is second — 26% prefer it this year, compared with 27% in 2015 and 26% in 2016. Chat and social media have much lower percentages.
And consumers see email as easy to use. Email comes in at second on that question, with 48% citing it.
But email fell by four points from 2016, and 52% say it’s not easy.
Here’s where the chatbox comes in: It is seen as the easiest to use by 50%. And that has remained steady year-over-year.
Of course, half of the consumers find all service channels difficult to use.
Moving on, 32% rate email as effective for making critical feedback or suggestions.
Email is a distant second for most customer service issues: 20% prefer it for adding a service or product question, and 17% apiece for making changes to their account, or offering a comment or suggestion and resolving a problem.
“Consumers are more willing to turn to email than to phone to make a comment or suggestion or to complain/give critical feedback, though many consumers are making a shift from email to live chat when an inquiry requires a resolution,” Northridge writes.
Of the consumers surveyed, 68% say they get both response and resolution via email. But email is beaten in this area by phone (87%) and chat (70%). And 26% say they get response but no resolution with email.
Does that mean consumers are getting what they want the first time out? No. The study shows that 43% say they have to interact via email twice before getting an issue resolved. And 33% say it takes one try.
The phone scores higher in this way — 63% say it takes only one try to get satisfaction. And 55% say the same about chat. What’s more, 49% feel that way about web self-service, and 44% about app self-service. Social media was selected by 41%.
So what’s the problem, email marketers? Why do consumers have to try more than once to get satisfaction?
Here’s another question: Why is phone preference sinking? Northridge has an answer. “The year-over-year decline in the ease of use of phone as a channel could indicate that it has become too complicated,” it writes.
The problem? “Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) systems, poor speech recognition, and automated messages have made the channel that customers rely on most for mission-critical tasks more difficult to use when compared to digital channels.”
Meanwhile, 36% of customers will switch channels if their issue is not resolved within an hour, according to the study. Millennials are even more likely to switch channels — 44% will do so within the hour, and 21% in just a few minutes.
It’s not all digital — 40% say letters produce both response and resolution.
But don’t get too worried about these channel-specific findings. Here’s the most important stat of all: that 80% will switch to a different company when they receive poor customer service, with only a 50-50 chance that they will return.