Once upon a time providing good customer service was relatively simple. People’s highest expectations for retailers were to sell quality products at low prices. However, the relationship between businesses and consumers has dramatically changed. Today, customer service encompasses the total buying experience—what happens before, during, and after the transaction. Customers prefer to buy from retailers who address their needs and provide value after the purchase.
Businesses that understand what customers expect and respond accordingly are the ones who will reap the benefits. The Gladly 2021 Customer Service Expectations Report identified three overarching themes shaping consumer behavior and impacting how companies interact with them. These are:
• The quality of service a company provides affects a company’s profits
• There’s a greater demand for retailers to have multiple channels
• Offering personalized service is more important than speed
Make Quality of Service a High Priority
Consumers buy more from companies that provide excellent service. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents are willing to pay higher prices. These shoppers eagerly share their high opinion of the company with family, friends, and people on the Internet. Their desire to advocate on behalf of the company directly impacts revenue.
• 62 percent of customers switched to a competitor with better service
• 69 percent of customers championed brands with family, friends and on social media
• The average consumer interacts with customer service 1-5 times per year
Connect to Customers via Multiple Communication Channels
Companies must connect with consumers based on their preferred communication channels. People also want the ability to transition between channels seamlessly. They dislike having to duplicate the actions they took to complete previous transactions. While customers appreciate the new technology that brought chatbots, 50 percent of respondents find the AI disappointing since they fully expect them to perform with the same proficiency as humans.
• 30 percent of customers believe having their choice of channels is a great experience
• 75 percent of customers are likely to buy when offered personalized recommendations
• 62 percent of customers do not want to repeat their previous interactions
Personalize Service to Make People Feel Recognized
The Gladly survey also found that consumers value personalized service more than speed. People want to be recognized by the companies they support. They like to be addressed by name and have companies remember what items they purchased. However, the survey indicates 61 percent of the people polled feel the companies they do business with treat them like a number instead of a person.
• Consumers will wait for less than a minute to hear back via live chat
• Consumers expect responses to emails to be within 3-4 hours
• 5 minutes is the average response time consumers expect to wait by the phone
In summation, the Gladly report includes observations from the author and customer service expert Shep Hykin. He notes, “Because customer service needs and expectations today aren’t just about solving problems anymore—it’s part and parcel of a company’s sales efforts and marketing strategy. Companies today are realizing that the technology, people, and processes they’ve developed over the last 20 years may not be enough to help them address how customer needs have developed up to this point. The data in this survey should help arm these service leaders with the information they need to evolve and keep up-to-date with what it is their consumers want; otherwise, they risk losing them to a company that will.”