Americans jumped online during the recent holiday season — 68% increased their digital shopping and the same percentage expect to continue post-pandemic, according to The State of Customer Service Experience, a study released Thursday by The Northridge Group.
But they were badly frustrated with the customer experience. In short, they had to work too hard to resolve issues.
Only 42% achieved satisfaction on the first contact, compared to 52% in 2015.
Moreover, 69% had difficulty finding answer on a company's website, while 73% endured long wait times to reach a live agent and 60% complained they had to repeat information over and over again.
Yet only 29% of companies even measure customer effort. And they have a much rosier view of the customer experience they provide than consumers do.
That is especially true when it comes to email. Of the consumers polled, 37% increased their use of email for service inquiries, versus 34% who did so with social media, 34% with phone calls and 30% online chat.
But only 20% found that email provides the fastest resolution of issues, versus 27% in 2015.
In contrast, 42% feel that way about phone calls, although that channel had fallen from 50% in 2015.
In addition, 38% say other digital channels work the fastest, up from 24% in 2015. That would include social media, online chat, text, mobile app, web self-service and live video chat.
Email is last in place in quickly resolving issues — 14% say it happens within minutes, 17% within an hour and 69% in a day or more — proof of inefficient or overworked systems.
Of course, phone leads here — 43% of issues are resolved within minutes, 31% within an hour and 26% in a day or more.
Online chat is second — 42% of problems are solved within minutes, 30% within an hour and 21% in a day or more.
Here is a list of the channels rated by ease of contact:
There is a split between businesses' and customers' perspective — 90% of business leaders say email is easy or very easy to use. But only 63% of consumers agree.
But that's not unusual — businesspeople give all channels higher marks than customers do. For instance, 88% of firms think phone calls are easy, versus 64% of consumers.
And 80% of business types claim that online chat is easy, yet only 64% of customers concur.
But someone must be doing something right — 63% of customers tried digital apps and tools, and 75% will continue to use them in the post-COVID-19 period.
Northridge surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and over 250 business leaders late in 2020.