Customers frustrated with phone support; prefer chat, other digital channels

Mobile self-service on websites and chat is rapidly growing as the default means of retail customer support as frustration toward telephone contact centers grows. Today's mobile-oriented, always-connected customer expects better from customer service calls than many companies can deliver.

Research shows that 48 percent of customers surveyed believe that the ability to reach the right representative has worsened over the last two years. As a result, 76 percent said they have stopped doing business with a company following a bad customer service experience, according to a report released this week. The research was conducted by Ovum Research for LogMeIn, which sells customer engagement tools.

"This research confirms that mobile, Web self-service and chat are rapidly growing channels for both pre- and post-sales customer support," Ross Haskell, senior director of BoldChat product at LogMeIn told FierceRetailIT. The use of live chat has doubled in the past two years, he said. The study also found that the number of customers using a mobile phone for support calls doubled to 42 percent, and the use of mobile apps has more than doubled to 20 percent, up from 8 percent in the same two-year period.

"Having live chat enables online retailers to drive sales and provide a preferred channel of support after the transaction. Chat's concurrency, coupled with its ability to deploy well on mobile devices, makes it a powerful tool for retailers, which will deliver results in the form of increased conversions and higher satisfaction," Haskell said.

Among the other key findings, the study found that the time required to reach an agent is the biggest customer complaint; customer service relationships directly impact loyalty; customers look to Web and mobile first for answers; the use of email and chat continues to grow; live chat is a promising channel for support interactions; managers understand that wait times are an issue; and the Internet of Things shows potential for technical resolutions. Contact center managers are familiar with the advantages of connected devices and would like to be able to resolve issues remotely when they can.

"Retailers must take a proactive approach to online engagement and invest in the right technology and channels. It is clear that mobile engagement is sufficiently different from other types of customer contact, and certainly worthy of retailers' attention and budgets," Haskell said.

Almost three-quarters of customers would choose to resolve their problems by any means other than phone. However, resolution rates are lower for support inquiries across non-voice channels. "Retailers need new tools to track Web behavior and link it to live customer interactions in order to provide quick resolutions," Haskell said.

Even with the advances of non-voice channels of communication, retailers should still consider ways to build on the strength of telephone-based support. "Clearly there are some things you can simply do better on the phone—like engage emotionally and personally with customers. This kind of bond is powerful and harder to achieve through digital channels," Haskell said.

The survey sample included 315 contact center managers and 400 customers across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. "This dual perspective study confirms that customers are increasingly using digital channels for support, especially if they know they can get faster resolutions and responses. It also indicates that businesses need to adapt their service tools to match customer needs and improve access to live agents," said Aphrodite Brinsmead, senior analyst at Ovum.

"Contact centers should invest in technology to understand cross-channel behavior and link customers' digital interactions with their profiles and case records," he added. "By optimizing online support and guiding customers to the right channel for their issues, businesses will be able to improve resolution rates and customer satisfaction."

For more:
-See this LogMeIn press release
-See this LogMeIn infographic
-See this Ovum/LogMeIn report

Related stories:
Social media for customer service is a must for retailers
Comcast triples size of social customer service team
Discover mastering the lost art of customer service on mobile
Study: Sam's Club, Amazon rated high for customer service
6 ways to keep your customer service relevant