The state of UK customer service 2020 - struggling to improve
Digital channels are now a vital part of the customer relationship, across every sector. They give consumers greater choice, whatever their demographic, and enable them to find fast, accurate answers wherever they are in the customer journey. Now, more than ever, it is essential that UK brands provide the right levels of service in order to engage and retain customers. So, how are they faring?
To find out, we evaluated the digital customer service provided by 50 UK companies from five sectors, repeating research carried out since 2011. We looked at their performance on the web, email, social media and chat when it came to answering routine queries, such as changing an order or finding out about policies. We combined this with a consumer survey to look at channel choice across the customer journey. (All research was carried out in February 2020.)
The 2020 Digital Customer Experience Study from Eptica, an Enghouse Company, highlighted 5 key points:
1. Performance is worsening
Overall, companies could only successfully answer 64% of questions asked across the web, email and social media. This is a fall of 5% compared to 2019 and marks the first decline in performance for years. 42% of companies performed worse, while 40% stayed the same – just 18% improved.
A 5% drop may not seem excessive. However, given that the same companies are being asked the same routine questions as in previous years, falling levels of performance point to issues with resources as businesses struggle to cope with increasing contact volumes and greater consumer expectations.
2. Service is not consistent across channels
Customers expect similar levels of performance whichever channel they use to make contact. Yet when asked the same question on email, Facebook, Twitter and chat, no companies were able to answer on all four of these channels. Just over a third (36%) responded on three, and 20% only answered on one channel. Cutting channels may seem like a way of saving resources, but it is a false economy. In fact, forcing consumers away from their channels of choice will undermine their experience and drive them to rivals.
3. Chat has moved into the mainstream
Chat brings benefits to consumers (in terms of speed and accessibility) and brands (improving efficiency compared to the telephone or email). However, despite this in the past companies have seemed to treat chat as a ‘nice to have’ extra, despite consumers in the study ranking it as one of the top four channels across the customer journey.
This year saw chat move centre stage - 32% of businesses had chat available on their website when tested, up from 26% in 2019, putting it just behind email as a channel for successfully delivering customer service. There is still room for improvement though - when researched 42% said that they offered chat, meaning that many are clearly still switching the channel off when resources are tight.
4. Understand your customer base and its demographics
The study drilled down into the impact of age and gender on speed and channel choice. Some findings were not new – for example, the 55+ age group was the most likely to pick up the phone, with 16-24 year olds the least likely to call. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. While they like the phone, over half (51%) of the 55+ category were happy to use the web to research information, and they are also the most impatient group, wanting faster than average answers in seven out of eight parts of the customer journey. The phone-shy 16-24 year olds are the most likely group to ask questions via email when researching potential purchases, while men were happier to use social media than women to make contact with businesses. Research your customer demographics to ensure you are delivering on their preferred channels.
5. Improvements are possible
Customers are asking more questions, across more channels than ever before - and want ever-faster answers. Dealing with this increasing volume of queries can feel overwhelming to businesses, and the study findings show that many companies are struggling to cope.
Yet, despite the drop in performance all of the problems highlighted in the research are eminently fixable. For example, many brands gave wildly different answers on different channels - with a huge variety in response times. One insurer responded to the same question in 9 minutes on Facebook and 13 minutes on Twitter, yet took 59 hours to answer on email. It had the knowledge and ability to answer quickly, but was hampered by silos and a lack of a joined-up approach - breaking down barriers between channels would, therefore, improve performance. The same applies to learning from competitors - benchmarking performance against rivals will deliver improvements and show where resources are best deployed.
Digital customer service has never been more important - and the only way for brands to safeguard their revenues is to deliver performance that matches customer expectations, across every channel, through fast, accurate and consistent responses. To learn more and to drill down into the results download the full 2020 Digital CX Study here.