Most companies are inconsistent in both the variety of their channel offerings and the quality of those channels when it comes to customer service, CX Act finds in its latest Customer Touchpoint Stress Test.
The research firm reported that the phone outperformed email, chat, and social media on issue resolution (according to 86 percent), but still left a great many consumers dissatisfied. Only 58 percent of consumers reported being satisfied with their phone interactions. Customer satisfaction with the other channels was far lower, with chat at 40 percent, email at 22 percent, and Facebook at 17 percent.
When it comes to resolution times, the phone took an average of 16 minutes, email took 12.4 hours, Facebook averaged more than three hours, and chat averaged nine minutes for simple queries.
Half of companies offer email as a customer service channel, where it only yields resolution rates of 44 percent and satisfaction scores of 22 percent. Only one in four companies offer Facebook channels for customer inquiries, and issue resolution occurs only 27 percent of the time. Satisfaction scores for Facebook were the lowest, at 17 percent.
The study did not look at Twitter as a support channel, but "we can predict how it would fare based on how Facebook did," says Crystal Collier, CEO of CX Act.
Ease of use also continues to be a problem. Only 52 percent of survey participants said customer care information was easy to find on company Web sites, and when they did find it, only one in four (24 percent) found it extremely helpful.
"With more consumers turning to digital for customer service, especially...young consumers, brands need to take steps now to offer higher-quality service via digital," Collier says.
The larger problem is that companies are trying to do too much at once, according to the research. "Instead of focusing on one or two channels and getting them right, they're focusing on all four and not getting any of them right," Collier contends. "Look at what you can offer well and focus on them first," she says.
When it comes to the phone, Collier states that hold times are still an issue, and other metrics are not being met. Additionally, agents on the phone are often not as empowered as they need to be. Contact centers "need to focus on efficiency so customers are not waiting on hold and then being transferred around because the agent is not empowered to resolve their issues," she says.
She adds that many companies also don't strive for personalization, empathy, or deeper relationships—all essential to improving customer satisfaction.
"Get the satisfaction level up to eighty percent, and then move to the next channel," she advises.
That, she adds, is the path to take toward the ultimate goal of providing omnichannel customer service, something that she doesn' see as possible right now. "Omnichannel is still quite a ways off from being implemented," she says.
That's not to say that companies can't get there. "If you can resolve an issue in chat, you should be able to do it in email just as well," Collier states.
CX Act's Customer Touchpoint Stress Test involved 50 of the world's most prominent airlines, auto manufacturers, financial institutions, electronics and consumer packaged goods manufacturers, insurance providers, cable/Internet service providers, and retailers. Customer issues included billing questions, product issues, and general inquiries.
"The issues that our customers were calling about weren't that difficult," Collier says. "The fact that they were getting transferred so often presents the greatest opportunity for improvement."