Believe it or not, most companies today work hard to base their customer service operations on the preferences of a 77-year old customer.
That’s the age when customers prefer the phone 2.5 times more than self-service, and is also what most customer service executives believe is the preference their “average customer” has for the phone versus other channels.
But the fact that nearly 60% of today’s phone volume represents customers who couldn’t solve their issue on the firm’s website shows that something is wrong with this assumption.
What’s worse is that making customers switch channels vastly increases the effort they have to put into dealing with a company. CEB work clearly shows that the single most important determinant of customer loyalty comes from making interactions require as little effort as possible.
Where Executives Get It Wrong
Most customers surprisingly often go out of their way to self-serve. We all tend to perceive self-service as more efficient and an easier interaction, at least initially.
The problem is that if you ask any customer service executive how customers want to interact with his/her company and, without fail, they will tell you customers generally prefer to call, or that the phone is a key way to build customer relationships.
It’s not hard to understand why they think this way. Live phone service is the most significant operational cost in their organizations and the most publicly visible channel (examples like the coverage of a 20-minute call between an overly eager service rep and a man trying to cancel his US Comcast cable service only fuel the fire). Not to mention, it’s the channel on which most service leaders cut their teeth as they came up through the ranks.
The Problem with Channel Switching
This misunderstanding only increases channel switching – where a customer using the firm’s website must then pick up the phone – which is one of the biggest and most insidious drivers of high customer effort. And high effort will dampen customers’ intent to repurchase products, buy new products, or talk positively about the company to friends, family, and colleagues.
CEB data show that channel switching happens in the majority of customer service interactions, and far more than most managers would imagine. The infographic below gives more detail.