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Do customers expect poor service? Sixty-one percent of customers have to interact with a company on more than one channel to get their issue resolved; one-fifth have to contact them on three or more channels. Yet, in The Northridge Group’s study The State of Customer Service Experience 2015, customers report that companies are meeting basic customer service expectations. But, basic service isn’t what companies strive to deliver. With communication platforms more fragmented than ever, many companies are struggling to deliver a consistent and seamless customer service experience across channels.

Rather than infer customers expect poor service, these findings reveal a significant opportunity for companies that would like to leverage customer service as a differentiator in the marketplace and a source of competitive advantage. Each customer service channel – phone, email, chat, social media – offers value to the customer, but they cannot all address issues and inquiries uniformly. It is critical for each customer service channel to serve its unique purpose. The key for brands that would like to understand the holistic customer experience is to seamlessly connect those interactions across channels and leverage the key business insights that are gleaned.

Omni-channel Excellence

Right now, half of the consumers prefer the phone to any other channel for customer service issues. Email is the second-most popular (27 percent), online chat is third at 14 percent, and all other channels make up the remaining 10 percent. While the phone is the preferred channel for resolution today, there is a growing population of consumers who want to self-serve and handle issues online. The channel preferences will continue to change, but regardless of the channel customers choose to engage on, companies must be able to deliver.

Two-thirds of consumers said the phone is the fastest channel for issue resolution followed by online chat (15 percent) and email (10 percent). With all the hype surrounding social media, this channel is not providing true issue resolution and timely responsiveness that consumers expect.

And while consumers are not reaching out to social media first for issue resolution, 26 percent of respondents reported that they most often reach out to companies through social media when the other channels have failed them. Do you really want your most public channel to be your customers’ last resort?

Do you really want your most public channel to be your customers’ last resort?

Indeed, companies that want to improve their customer experience overall need to embrace social media as part of their overall omni-channel strategy and leverage it for insights and engagement opportunities.

So, do customers expect poor service?

Some organizations may be meeting customers’ basic expectations, but the brands that exceed customers’ expectations are reaping the benefits over their competitors. The data from The Northridge Group study reinforces a need for customer service channels to complement one another and flow seamlessly. To start improving upon omni-channel customer experience strategy, companies should:

  • Tailor your customer service strategy to the customer’s channel preferences and not the company’s channel preferences.
  • Develop metrics for each channel that are aligned with customer expectations and improve on response times and resolution rates
  • Empower front-line customer service agents with the authority to handle issues and inquiries in a more timely manner

Clearly, there is an opportunity for an organization to stand out from the competition through an outstanding customer service experience. The companies that are the first to successfully deliver a seamless and effortless customer service experience in their industries will stand to gain new customers and strengthen loyalty with existing ones.

To read more key findings from our study, download it here.