The average response time to handle a customer service request via email is 15 hours and 17 minutes. That’s according to the 2017 Customer Service Benchmark Report recently released by SuperOffice. They studied 500 companies and found, “… a majority of the 500 companies in the study are failing to meet customer expectations and costing millions of dollars in lost customers and unnecessary internal follow-up work.”
A few more interesting — and scary — stats to back this up include:
• 41% of companies do not respond to customer service emails.
• 90% of companies do not acknowledge or inform their customers that their emails have been received.
• Only 11% of companies are able to answer a customer’s question on the first reply.
This greatly concerns me, and it should concern you (and your company) as well. If you are going to make yourself available to your customers on channels outside of traditional phone support, then do it right. If you have invested in these channels, then you are obviously trying to get the customer to use them. When they have had a bad experience emailing or using a social channel, they will do one of three things:
1. Customers may wait out a response. But, how happy do you think they are going to be if they have to wait hours before you respond to them?
2. Customers get frustrated and move on. And, in this case, moving on means doing business with a different company the next time they need whatever it is that you sell.
All three of these are problematic, especially number two, where the customer never comes back. Let’s look at number three, phone support, more closely. Even with all the new ways for a customer to connect with your organization, and the self-service options you might provide, the phone is still a viable way to connect. In other words, contrary to what some may believe….
Phone support is not dead!
It’s not even on life support. There are some studies that say an overwhelming majority of customers go to the phone as a second line of support. Yes, there are businesses and certain segments of the population that are turning to phone alternatives to connect with the companies they do business with. Technology is ramping up with different ways to contact one another, and some of them are quite good. Yet, at least for the foreseeable future, you can count on the phone to have an important place in customer service.
Reservations.com is a perfect example of this. They are an Internet travel company that helps their customers book hotel rooms. Co-founders Mahesh Chaddah and Yatin Patel are very proud of their value proposition, which is all about service, and specifically phone support. Yes, they offer other channels such as chat, but it is their 24/7 availability on the phone that helps set them apart from the competition.
Chaddah says, “Customers want an overall experience when dealing with customer service, and submitting an e-ticket is not THE answer, even for tech-savvy millennials.” Patel comments, “Instead of letting our customers waste time waiting for email responses or leaving them to comb through FAQ sections, we have dedicated our (support) center to help our customers avoid unnecessary frustration and give them the opportunity to speak to an agent directly to answer any questions at any time via the telephone.”
Whether you’re in the travel industry or not, this is good advice. The key is accessibility — to a human when needed. According to TalkDesk, 61% of customers prefer phone calls to get their customer support. The study goes on to say that 77% of customers don’t feel they connect with a live customer service rep quickly enough.
Several months ago, I wrote an article that indicated that customers are beginning to use phone support as the second effort, first going to email, chat, self-service or social media. I still believe this is the trend, but the phone will always have its place. There is a great benefit to self-service solutions, especially since chatbots and AI have become advanced enough to take care of many basic customer requests. But when the customer wants to talk to someone on the phone, the company must be ready, willing and able. The phone is also the best solution for more complicated questions that need the support, interaction, and even empathy, of a professional support person.
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, keynote speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.