“Online, brand value is built through experience, not exposure.”
First, a confession. I didn’t say this. I wish I’d said it, but it was actually said by usability legend Jakob Nielsen at a workshop he did way back in 2006. I was in the audience, and I was listening. Intently.
But now, some 17 years later, I have to wonder if anyone else was. According to a new study from Yext cited by MediaPost’s Inside Performance column, many companies are still struggling with the concept. Here’s just a few tidbits from the report:
-- 47% (of leads) in a Yext survey said they were unable to make an online purchase because the website’s help section did not provide the information needed.
-- On average, respondents said it takes nearly 9 hours for a typical customer service issue to be resolved. Respondents said resolution should take about 14.5 minutes.
-- 42% of respondents said help sites do not often provide the answers they look for with a first search.
-- The biggest challenge, cited by 61%, is that the help site does not understand their question.
This isn’t rocket science, people. If you piss off your customers and prospects, they will go find one of your competitors that doesn’t piss them off. And they won’t come back.
Perhaps the issue is that businesses doing business online have a bad case of the Lake Wobegon effect. This, according to Wikipedia, is a “a natural human tendency to overestimate one's capabilities.” It came from Garrison Keillor’s description of his fictional town in Minnesota where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average"
When applied to businesses, it means that they think they’re much better at customer service than they actually are. In a 2005 study titled “Closing the delivery gap,”, Global consulting firm Bain & Company found that 80% of companies believe they are delivering a superior service. And yet, only 8% of customers believe that they are receiving excellent service.
I couldn’t find an update to this study but I suspect this is probably still true. It’s also true that when it comes to judging the quality of your customer service, your customers are the only ones that can do it. So you should listen to them.
If you don’t listen, the price you’re paying is huge. In yet another study, call center platform TCN’s second annual “Consumer Insights about Customer Service,” 66% of Americans are likely to abandon a brand after a poor customer service experience.
Yet, for many companies, customer service is at the top of their cost-cutting hit list. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected average growth rate for all occupations from 2020 to 2030 is 8%, but when looking at customer service specifically, the estimated growth is actually -4%. In many cases, this reduced head count is due to companies either outsourcing their customer service or swapping people for technology.
This is probably not a great move.
Again, according to the TCN study, when asked what their preferred method of communication with a company’s customer service department was, number one was “talking to a live agent by phone,” with 49 % choosing it. Just behind was 45% choosing an “online chat with a live agent."
Now, granted, this is coming from a company that just happens to provide these solutions, so take it with a grain of salt, but still, this is probably not the place you should be reducing your head count.
One final example of the importance customer service, not from a study but from my own circle of influencers. My wife and I recently booked a trip with my daughter and her husband and, like everyone else in the last few years, we found we had to cancel the trip. The trip was booked through Expedia, so the credits, while issued by the carrier, had to be rebooked through Expedia.
My daughter tried to rebook online and soon found that she had to talk to an Expedia customer service agent. We happened to be with her when she did this. It turned out she talked to not one, but three different agents. The first flatly refused to rebook and seemed to have no idea how the system worked. The second was slightly more helpful but suggested a way to rebook that my daughter wasn’t comfortable with. The third finally got the job done. This took about three hours on the phone, all to do something that should have taken two minutes online.
I haven’t mustered up the courage to attempt to rebook my credits yet. One thing I do know -- it will involve whisky.
What are the chances that we will book another flight on Expedia? About the same as me making the 2024 Olympic Chinese Gymnastic Team.
Actually, that might have the edge.
Congratulations for putting the focus on an important issue that management in most companies seems to give low priority. This is particlarly true of compnaies with limited competition.
The "satsifaction surveys" that follow most phone and online interaction seem to be ignored.