Four out of every ten customers would rather experience a trip to their Department of Motor Vehicles than contact customer care. With all due respect to your local DMV, that’s a sobering reflection of the state of customer service, but only one of many in a new survey sponsored by Aspect Software, a customer interaction management vendor. 

When they have to contact customer service, 64% of respondents do not feel like they are treated like valued customers. For 67%, automated responses are a key complaint, and 65% cite their frustration at having to repeat themselves at various customer service touchpoints.

Expectations Versus Usage

The survey, conducted for Aspect by custom research agency TNS, found a disconnect between customer expectations and how companies are actually using the multiple channels at their disposal. Forty-two percent of customers, for example, would like companies to use social media for customer service instead of promoting their products. However, despite the growing use of social media for customer relationship management, a negligible 1% said that social media provides the best customer experience.

For customers who have used social media channels, only 7% report they offer the fastest resolution and best customer experience. But social media does have one clear customer value in relation to service -- it can be used as a threat. Sixteen percent acknowledge they have threatened to share their experience with others in their circles via social channels, and 9% have warned they would “broadcast their frustration” to anyone who would listen.

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Aspect, which has emphasized social media in its Aspect Social platform, said that the lack of satisfaction in the use of this channel “is an indication that most companies have not started to embrace social media as a preferred channel for customer care.” A skeptic, however, could also say this is evidence that social media, by its nature, may have only limited customer service value.

Some Good News

Jim Freeze, Senior Vice President and chief marketing officer for Aspect, told CMSWire that the survey highlighted the emerging “expectations of end-users.”

One trend, he said, is that users are still willing to use traditional channels, such as the reigning, voice over phone. But Freeze noted that, while “most companies today make decisions about how, when and what channels the customer will interact with,” Aspect’s view is that customers, who know there are multiple channels available, “prefer to choose the channels” for their interaction.

The survey points to what it calls some “good news” for brands that do offer multiple channels, such as email, online chat and social media, in addition to phone. The report found that 77% of respondents think companies that offer multiple channels for their customer service are “easier to do business with,” and 74% believe those companies provide better service. Sixty-seven percent of respondents think they are “more in control of their relationship” when a company provides multiple channels.

But lack of integration between those channels leads to the irritation felt by customers at having to repeat themselves. For instance, a customer might use a chat window to describe a detailed question to a tax preparation software/service company, only to have to repeat all of the information again when following up with an expert on the phone.

Just Solve It

Freeze also noted that companies need to “quickly and seamlessly” be able to locate and obtain expert support on a given issue, providing expert advice directly to the customer, or indirectly, via the agent.

But the basic issue highlighted by the survey is that customers are not getting their problems solved, regardless of how many channels there are. As customers’ expectations rise, and their frustrations remain, Freeze said that companies have to keep their channels working seamlessly together.

“Customers want to choose” their method of communication, he added, and the introduction of new channels raises expectations -- including the expectation that customers have more control than they have been used to. “Regardless of the channel,” Freeze noted, “they need to get their problem resolved.”

The survey, conducted by custom research agency TNS, queried 2500 American adults 18 and older via online from February 28 to March 3. About 2100 of those surveyed had contacted customer service.

Image courtesy of faysal (Shutterstock)