With the proliferation of customer contact channels and customer contact centers morphing to become omnichannel customer experience centers, questions arise on effective use and impact of these various touchpoints. A study conducted by CX Act with more than 3,000 consumers, shows that, while digital channels are growing, the most frequently used and most effective customer touchpoint is personal contact via phone. Additionally, the study confirms the dramatic impact that effective contact handling has on customer loyalty and word-of-mouth, and the importance of first contact resolution.
Effective Contact Handling Impacts the Bottom Line
Customers who are very satisfied with how their initial contact was handled are more than four times more likely to continue to buy the product/ service than those who were dissatisfied with contact handling. (See Figure 1.)
Effective contact handling also impacts word-of-mouth, with more dissatisfied contactors sharing their experience with others vs. satisfied contactors (69% vs. 53%).
So effective contact handling results in more loyal customers, less negative word-of-mouth and more positive word-of-mouth.
Despite Digital Growth, Customers Prefer Personal Touch
Phone is the most common way that customers choose to initially contact companies, with 52% dialing digits. Email or Web form is used by 23%, less than one-fifth (17%) contact in person, and only 1% contacts a company via social media or mobile app. As would be expected, this varies by industry, with some industries with a strong local presence (e.g., supermarkets or banks) having a higher proportion of in-person contacts; and industries with a strong digital presence (e.g., airlines, online retailers) have a higher proportion of email contacts.
Contact methods vary based on the reason for contact, but surprisingly in this increasingly digital world, customers still strongly prefer to contact via offline methods—especially by phone—to file complaints/solve issues or to ask a question (see Table 1). Email is the most frequent method for providing positive feedback.
One-third (32%) of those with a question or complaint who had to contact more than once used different contact methods. Of those customers:
- Again, phone is the most likely default channel. Most of those who initially contact via phone (86%) will continue to use the phone if subsequent contacts are needed.
- For those who initially contact via another channel, four out of 10 (43%) switch to phone contact if subsequent contacts are needed.
- Among those who contact multiple times, top-box satisfaction is higher among those who use different contact methods (19% very satisfied) vs. those that stayed with the same contact method (11% very satisfied)—largely due to contactors switching to phone.
Customers Contacting about Bills and Financial Issues
TV, Cable and Internet Providers and Banks are the two most contacted industries, contacted by four out of 10 contactors. The 10 most frequently contacted industries (all service industries), in order from most contacted to least contacted, are:
- TV, Cable and Internet Providers
- Credit Card
- Wireless Provider
- Auto, Home or Life Insurance Provider
- Medical Insurance
- Automotive Services
Five of the top six most contacted industries are either in the financial service industry or have a large percentage of their contacts related to billing.
Banks stand out as both one of the most frequently contacted industries with the highest industry first-contact resolution and satisfaction rates.
Questions Abound, 2:1 Ratio of Complaints to Compliments
Two-thirds of the U.S. population (62%) have contacted a company in the past three months to file a complaint, ask a question or provide positive feedback. Of those:
- 53% contact to ask a question
- 33% to file a complaint
- 14% to provide positive feedback
TV, Cable and Internet Providers receive the highest proportion of complaints (54%).
Only Half Are Satisfied, Personal Touch Prevails
Overall, only about half (50%) are very satisfied with how their complaint/question was handled in the first interaction. Satisfaction is highest for those who contact in person and lowest for those who post their complaint/question on social media. The following is satisfaction by contact method from highest to lowest:
- Social Media
Satisfaction varies by reason for contact (highest for questions and lowest for complaints) and industry contacted (highest for Banks and lowest for TV, Cable and Internet Providers).
Harsh Penalties for Brands That Fail “First-Contact” Test
About three-quarters (74%) of customers who have a question or complaint report that their complaint is resolved or question answered on their FIRST contact.
However, satisfaction with how the customer’s contact is handled drops considerably if first contact resolution is not achieved. (See Figure 2 .)
Of the 26% who do NOT receive a resolution on the first contact, about half (45%) do eventually receive final resolution with multiple contacts, with an average of 2.5 contacts to get resolution.
One in Five Shares via Social Media
More than half (57%) of customers tell someone about their contact experience, with 70% sharing “generally positive” comments. Even those who contact with a complaint/issue are more likely to share positive comments than negative comments about their experience.
Again, the personal touch prevails, with:
- 85% of those who talk about their contact experience telling others in person;
- 50% via phone;
- Another 28% talk about their experience via email/text messaging/IM; and
- 22% turn to social media to share the details of their contact experience.
Of those who share their experiences via social media, most were via Facebook (86%), followed by Twitter (21%). Twitter followers are more engaged and are more likely to comment on posts than Facebook followers.
How to Drive the Optimal Customer Experience
While companies can’t ignore the need to offer a multichannel strategy, and digital channels are likely to grow in importance (especially since younger consumers are more likely to use digital touchpoints), what matters NOW for creating an optimal customer contact experience is providing a phone or in-person customer interaction that delivers on the brand promise.
Customers provide the greatest guidance on how to do that. Overall, they identified the phone as the most effective channel for resolving issues, with little difference by industry. When asked for the reasons why they prefer to contact a company via phone vs. digital contact methods, the most frequent responses are:
- 1. Prefer a live person (42%);
- 2. Able to explain the situation with more detail (28%);
- 3. Able to ask questions (26%); and
- 4. Faster response (26%).
In other words, customers are looking for a personalized two-way dialogue to solve their questions and problems in an efficient and effective manner, and which strengthens their emotional attachment to the brand.
CX Act has found that frontline customer service agents usually know what to do, but often are lacking on knowing how to deliver the personalized interaction that delivers on the brand promise and provides the optimal customer experience.
Those companies that excel in satisfying contactors allocate appropriate resources to ensure that the frontline employees delivering service through the most important contact channel—phone—are adequately trained and supported to provide a highly engaged interaction that delivers on the brand promise. These companies will be rewarded with increased satisfaction, loyalty and positive word-ofmouth that reinforces positive brand image.
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, www.contactcenterpipeline.com