Values versus reality: surprising gaps in customer service

Values versus reality: surprising gaps in customer service

July 24, 2019
Values versus reality: surprising gaps in customer service

The steady rise of customer expectations is central to every conversation about customer service. The most successful companies are taking ongoing and proactive steps to meet those expectations, which can vary by industry and demographic, through thoughtful omnichannel support offerings, empathetic agents, and great analytics.

We all have blind spots, though. And how companies think they’re performing does not necessarily line up with the reality of the customer service they are delivering. The gaps are fascinating disconnects—and incredible opportunities for companies to better serve their customers. Read on for a few key ways in which perception and reality are often misaligned.

Customers want more ways to get in touch than most companies offer

Consumers want to reach the companies they patronize on the channel of their choice, and they expect a prompt response—85% of customers will use a different contact method if they don’t get a response from their initial request, with 44% waiting less than an hour before doing so, says the 5 Biggest Gaps in Customer Service for Midsize Companies, a new Zendesk report. And there is no single type of customer. Some live for live chat; I recently tweeted at my airline from the runway after an hour on the runway with no news—and had information on my plane’s broken tow bar in seconds. Many people still want to be able to pick up the phone and talk to a person, especially for something time-sensitive and private, like a banking emergency, or special, like customizing a flower order for mom. Companies acknowledge the value here: 77% of CX leaders at midsize companies say they evaluate success based on providing multiple ways to contact customer service, according to Zendesk research.

Yet a very small number of companies—only 35 percent of those midsize companies—have truly gone omnichannel.

Companies value the self-service their customers want but don’t offer it

Everyone wins. When customers can find answers to their questions, they’re happy, and your agents have more time to tackle complicated problems, and also to continue building resources for customers in the knowledge base. What’s your return policy? Was the purple grape surprise flavor discontinued? How do I connect my new speakers to my retro turntable? These are the kinds of questions that can be easily addressed in a knowledge base, and there’s usually no end to the kinds of articles that experienced agents can write on an ongoing basis to share with customers, whether they’re curious or confused.

There’s no speculation here: The people want self-service, as many as 81 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. And businesses themselves rank self-service highly as an indicator of success—54% of small business CX leaders say they evaluate success based on customers having the ability to find answers themselves, according to The 5 Biggest Gaps in Customer Service for Small Businesses.

The gap between values and reality here is pretty steep. Only 9% of the small business teams surveyed in the new Zendesk study, in fact, are relying on self-service to address requests and questions from customers.

No one is arguing how important data is… nor are they using apps and integrations

The word data may never sound exciting to the average person, but it’s a huge linchpin to so many of the intangibles that we as consumers value. My favorite store emailed me to recommend a spot-on new jumpsuit. The dog food company texted to say I might be running low on high-omega protein chow. I called the cable company for the third time about the same problem and they knew right away who I was, my history as a customer, and the likely reason I was calling. This sort of thing can happen because of complex customer profiles that allow a company to both engage in proactive service and to get up to speed lightning-fast when there’s a problem.

And 67% of leaders at midsize companies agree that integrating data sources to create customer profiles that include order history, interaction history, and additional details enables their team to provide better service.

But recent research found that after one year with Zendesk, 90% of midsize companies had connected only about five apps and integrations on average. For the most part the survey respondents had not added apps that would help them connect data related to critical areas such as social media, billing, e-commerce, marketing automation and translation.

Mind the gaps… and consider an omnichannel approach with robust self-service offerings and the healthy usage of apps and integrations. Most companies already think these things are good. Doing them? Even better.

Find out more about Zendesk’s research on the biggest gaps in customer service for midsize companies and for small businesses