Customer Service Apoplexy: Consumers Have To Work Too Hard To Resolve Issues

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:

  • Phone call — 64% 
  • Online chat — 64% 
  • Email — 63% 
  • Web Self-Service — 58%
  • Mobile app — 57% 
  • Text message — 55%
  • Live Video Chat — 49%
  • Social Media — 47%

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.

2 comments about "Customer Service Apoplexy: Consumers Have To Work Too Hard To Resolve Issues".
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  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, January 22, 2021 at 12:37 p.m.

    Having been a president and CMO of various consumer service companies in the cruise and hotel industries, where consumer satisfaction is critical, I am amazed at how poor the customer service is among companies in other industries, especially firms like Comcast and Instacart. It is as though management does  not understand their customers and the obstacles to custimer convenience and satisfaction that they create. Emphasis on keeping it simple and low cost for themselves often creates frustration for the consumer. 

    Some retailers like Walmart and Amazon do a much better job.

  2. Jennifer Jarratt from Leading Futurists LLC, January 25, 2021 at 5:09 p.m.

    What I think many companies don't realize is that computers make stupid responses to consumer questions. Those who work among computer systems understand how computers "talk." Consumers don't.

    When a company's computers (Comcast/Xfinity) don't recognize a customer's address, even though the company mails bills to that address, then customer service skids to a stop and there's no way around the system's obtuseness.

    Even if an actual person cannot solve a customer's problem at least they speak more or less the same language and can figure out the options to solve the problem.

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