Personalization and Speed: Two Rising Customer Needs Brands Must Meet

Gladly Team

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8 minute read

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This and more key consumer insights from the 2019 Customer Expectations Report

What do customers expect from customer service?

Gladly’s Customer Expectations Report returns this year with brand new insights into consumer expectations and behavior in the US, and how they’ve evolved over the past three years.
From how long customers will wait for service (by channel), to the companies winning the hearts and minds of consumers today, this year’s Report is a great read for companies looking to understand customer expectations, and determining the focus for their customer experience strategies.

While there are truly too many customer service statistics and data points to cover in one post, here’s a look at some of the key themes we uncovered this year.

Retail and Telecom Brands Provide The Best Customer Service

When asked which industries they felt provided the best customer service, Retail and Telecom came in at 3rd and 5th place out of 6 industries—unfortunately, not the most stellar showing for these powerhouse industries.
However, what we found was that brands from these industries nonetheless came out on top on an individual basis.

Retailers Amazon and Walmart nabbed the top 2 spots on our most-loved list of brands (reflecting the real-life rivalry between these two brands, some might say). While the next three places went to telecom brands Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

There’s definitely a lesson to be learned from these brands who have managed to shine outside of their industries’ performance, and that they are meeting and understanding customer expectations.

Brand Loyalty Won’t Overcome Poor Customer Service

Much like Rome, brand loyalty isn’t built in a day. But it is far easier to break, especially when a poor service experience is involved.
Our survey revealed that a company stands to lose up to 84% of their customers after three poor experiences—17% of them after the very first one. In fact:

  • 63% of respondents switched to a competitor that provided them better service, and
  • 52% left without warning the company, or giving them a chance to make amends

For the best brands, customer loyalty is always an ongoing effort, and never taken for granted.

Generation Z: Born to Modern, Omnichannel Customer Service

Forget the silver spoon, the average Gen Z’er is more likely to have grown up with a smartphone in their hands. And having grown up with a multi-channel world at their fingertips, they’ve developed some starkly different attitudes from their older peers when it comes to how they communicate with companies, and their opinions on modern customer service.
Unlike the generations before them, Gen Z’ers are the only generation to turn to email more often than phone to communicate with the brands they purchase from. They’re also the biggest users of social media to communicate with a brand—in fact, a Gen Z’er is almost 5x more likely to use social media than a Boomer—and much more likely to use newer technologies like connected devices or AR to inform their decisions than the generations before them.

As Gen Z’ers continue to enter the market, the best brands will no doubt be evolving their strategies to keep pace with the new ways this generation expects to communicate.

Modern Customer Expectations Are Outpacing Reality

Consumers today expect a seamless handoff from one experience to the next—so whether they’re switching from one channel to another (like phone to text), or an in-store experience to a contact center one, they expect not to have to repeat their stories again.
Yet despite this desire for seamlessness, companies are fulfilling these expectations less than ¼ of the time. For example:

  • 86% expect the next agent they communicate with to know their previous interactions. But only 24% experience this.
  • 76% expect agents to see their simultaneous interactions across channels (like if they sent a text while on the phone with an agent). But only 19% experience this.
  • 66% expect contact center agents to know about their in-store interactions (and vice versa). But only 22% experience this.

While companies today are working hard to deliver the omnichannel experience of their customers’ dreams, there’s still much work to be done to bridge these expectations.

[Read More: What is Omnichannel Experience?]

Consumers Place Human Expectations On Self-Service

Consumers today undoubtedly understand that finding answers themselves from places like FAQ pages, chatbots or Help Centers, these self-service options aren’t powered by a human on the other end. Yet they’re nevertheless placing similar expectations for seamlessness on these non-human support options, as they do on human options (like phone, email, or in-person). That means that their expectations for a continuous and personal experience do not go away.
When a consumer can’t find what they’re looking for themselves, and have to turn to a human agent for help:

  • 85% expect the agent to know about their previous chatbot interactions, and
  • 1 in 2 people expect agents to know that their previous FAQ searches were

When thinking of an omnichannel strategy, it seems that self-service is a component that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Some Customer Service Trends Over The Years

In the last three years, we’ve seen some really compelling consumer expectations trends from across the data gathered. Here are a sample of just some of the ones outlined in this year’s Report:

Phone and Email Lose Ground. Real-Time Messaging Makes Gains.

While phone and email remain king and queen respectively (that is they’re still the top two channels that customers turn to when they need support), we’ve noticed a downward trend in use of these channels over the years.

  • Phone use dropped 5% since 2017
  • Email use dropped 18% since 2017

On the other hand, live chat and social media have seen significant gains over the years, with the latter finding particular support with Gen Z. Text message has also seen a modest increase, though we suspect that we won’t see significant gains with SMS until more organizations start to offer it as a means of support. Suffice to say, modern customer expectations demand more “real-time text” capabilities.

  • Live chat use rose 14% since 2017
  • Social Media use rose 18% since 2017
  • Text Message use rose 1% since 2017

While phone and email are probably not going away anytime soon, trends in channel usage are a helpful guide to companies thinking about their omnichannel strategy.

High Customer Expectations Means They Will Wait Minutes, Not Days

Consumers have high expectations and want their answers fast. While traditional thinking has been that consumers will wait 12 hours for an email response, what we found in our Report was that actually, consumers expect an email response in 3 to 4 hours instead. Which makes us suspect that email’s fall in popularity may have some correlation with the usually higher wait times associated with it.
We also noticed similar, high expectations around live chat and SMS as well, with consumers expecting answers in minutes or less.

  • Consumers expect a response on live chat in less than a minute
  • Consumers expect a response on text message in 4 – 5 minutes

Customer Service Expectations: Final Thoughts

Over the past few years, we’ve seen considerable changes in how consumers want to interact with companies they buy from and what they expect from them. This Report is a helpful guide for companies as they think about and fine-tune their modern customer experience strategies.
For more customer service statistics and insights (including how long customers will wait on each channel, and the best and worst-performing industries today) be sure to check out the full Report.